Almonte in need of an Alzheimer's Day Away Program

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by Jan Watson

In June 2012, Mills Community Support, Alzheimer’s Society of Lanark County, Day Hospital program of the Almonte General Hospital and the Geriatric Psychiatry Community Outreach Seniors Resource Team met to discuss the possibility of organizing an Alzheimer Day Away program in Almonte.

There is an impact on Day Hospital and the seniors living in the community of Mississippi Mills as outlined below: Almonte has a lack of social-recreational programs which specifically meet the needs of client with dementia and physical limitations. The addition of a Day Away program in this community would contribute to ensuring a more Senior-Friendly community, and thus enabling the needs of both seniors with dementia and their caregivers to be fulfilled. Long waits for referrals by CCAC to a Day Away program cause certain clients the risk of having to stay in the Day Hospital program until they get into a Day away program in order to avoid being discharged to nothing and potentially losing the gains they have made in therapy.

If seniors with dementia cannot be kept in the Day Hospital program and if there is no Day Away program for them to attend, there is the risk of a decline in their health and the loss of the ability to stay in their homes resulting in admission to hospital or LTC. It is an ethical challenge to bring clients into the Day
Hospital, witness the benefits of participating in a program that provides physical, mental and social stimulation knowing there is nothing to support them after discharge.

Travel to Carleton Place to participate in programs is not feasible for many of our clients and becomes a barrier to their being involved in the Carleton Place Day Away program. The $29.00 fee for the return trip through Home Support plus the $18.00 daily charge to attend the program makes it an expensive day for many families. If the caregiver drives the client to Carleton Place they lose 2 hours of respite time daily. Clients with Alzheimer’s and related dementia who have been evaluated by our team and who have spent some time improving their physical status are no longer appropriate for the Day Hospital program and can take up space in the program that would be better allocated to clients on our waiting list.

Due to changes in LTC application processes and eligibility criteria, caregivers are looking after their family member with dementia for longer periods of time and later into their illnesses. Day Away programs are essential to these lay caregivers in order for them to maintain their own health and well-being and to continue to care for their family member thus enabling them to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Clients are often relatively isolated and living with an elderly spouse who provides 24/7 care.

It is important for Almonte to be successful in having a Day Away program for the mental and physical well-being of seniors suffering with Alzheimer’s or related dementias; to ease the burden of the caregivers and to reduce the load on the Carleton Place Day Away program with spaces becoming available for the residents of Carleton Place.