Caring for someone with a physical or cognitive deficit can be a burden for the caregiver, no matter how much they want to help their loved one.
The Adult Day Health program at the Northshore Senior Center provides nursing care and social opportunities for people with physical or mental disabilities or illnesses.
It also offers caregivers support and a break from their responsibilities.
"So often, they’ve cared for their loved one for a long time, and you get to where you don’t think anybody else can do as good a job," Judi Pirone, the Adult Day Health manager, said.
The program is equipped to care for people with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, physical deficits and cognitive deficits such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
The majority of participants are senior citizens, Pirone said, but anyone over 18 is welcome.
Participants can attend up to five days per week, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"The goal of Adult Day is really to provide a whole bunch of services in that period of time, so it’s really cost effective," Pirone said.
The program has nurses, occupational therapists, recreational therapists and a social worker on staff.
On a typical day, participants have coffee, socialize, and are checked by nurses after arriving on program-sponsored buses or being dropped off by their caregivers.
In the morning, they exercise, doing activities such as chair exercises and body conditioning.
They also do reminiscing groups, sensory groups, crafts and baking.
After lunch, participants enjoy some kind of entertainment, such as music therapy where they can dance and sing or active outdoor games in the summer.
"It needs to be structured, because they are here for a reason, so we want to make sure we’re offering things people would enjoy, and that if they don’t like something, they have the option to do something else," Pirone said.
Other options include tending tomatoes in a garden started by the Woodinville Garden Club, visiting Tootsie’s salon to see the hair stylist or getting a massage, using computers with adaptive equipment such as voice recognition software, exercising in the fitness center, or spending quiet time playing Xbox or Wii in the sunroom.
The mixture of activities helps people physically, cognitively and emotionally, in what Pirone describes as a "positive course of events."
"For some folks, just getting them up in the morning, getting them dressed and getting them here is something they may not do in a normal day," she said. "... And then once they’re here, they start to mix with their other sort of set of peers. So where normally you might not have somebody wanting to exercise independently, or can’t, they’re with another group of people that may be having some of the same issues."
Harold Christensen has seen the Adult Day Center from two perspectives — as a caregiver for his wife, and now as a volunteer.
"Being a full-time caregiver for five and a half years, it was a little strenuous, and I was looking for some help," he said. "It’s just been a godsend, because I was able to have some relief."
He especially liked the wide variety of activities, and the expertise of the staff.
"There isn’t a finer place on this planet," Christensen said. "The people that work here are very passionate people. Everybody that’s coming in here has a different personality, a different need, that they have going with them, and these folks here just adapt to everything."
Now, he comes back and plays guitar to entertain the participants.
His band, the Cascade Rangers, also played a benefit concert for the Adult Day Health program.
The attitude Christensen noticed from the staff might have something to do with the fact that most of the staff have worked at the Adult Day Center for more than 15 years.
Pirone has worked at the center for 17 or 18 years.
"It’s like one big family," she said. "And I think that says a lot for the program itself."
Although the program struggles with funding, Pirone said she won’t turn anyone away.
"We made a real conscious decision a long time ago. We would find a way so we never had to have a wait list, because by the time people sometimes come to us, they needed it yesterday, and we understand that."
The Northshore Adult Day Center is located in Bothell and serves Bothell, Kenmore, Woodinville, Shoreline and parts or Kirkland and Snohomish County.
For more information, see northshoreseniorcenter.org/programsservices/adultdayhealth/overview.aspx.