Abbotsford gives caregivers and dementia clients a Day Away

By Julie Ireton


Two mornings a week, David and Aggi Hutton arrive at Abbotsford Seniors Centre for the Day Away program for dementia clients.

Aggi, David’s bride of 53 years, stays for the activities and lunch, allowing David some time to do groceries, errands and chores before he picks her up at 3 p.m. “Sometimes I’m exhausted and I’ll sleep for part of that time,” laughed David, who is Aggi’s primary caregiver as well as the cook and cleaner in their Glebe home.

The Day Away program at Abbotsford Seniors Centre provides a safe, familiar environment for people with early- to mid-stage dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, while giving their caregivers some much needed respite. The program, offered to those who live in their own homes or in a retirement residence, runs from noon to 3 pm on Thursdays and 9:30 to 3 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Three staff members, along with two or three regular volunteers, guide the 12 clients through intellectual, physical and social activities throughout the day.

“The activities run for about 45 to 50 minutes, considering their shorter attention spans, and we change rooms after each activity, so they get a change of scenery,” said Cassandra Ford, program facilitator. “We offer seated exercise programs, games such as headline hunter, singing and crosswords. We try to give structure to the day so there are similar activities, there’s a routine and they know what to expect.”

Each of these days, participants all get a hot meal which includes soup and a main course made in the Glebe Centre’s kitchen.

“The best part is making a connection with the client, even if it’s brief, and seeing their faces light up when they’re able to contribute,” said Ford. “But the worst part is because you see them every week, you recognize the changes brought by this progressive disease.”

Aggi Hutton, a former intensive care nurse, gradually started to show signs of dementia a few years ago. Her husband says it’s now quite pronounced, and she can no longer be left on her own. “She’s still very cheerful and fun to be with, but she just doesn’t know what happened five minutes ago,” said David. “The program gives her lots of stimulation, more than I can give her, and it gives me time to do other things.”

She never hesitates to head to Abbotsford, the senior’s centre across from Lansdowne Park. “She loves it there. The staff are well organized, and the program runs like clockwork,” he said.

There were funding cuts to the Day Away program in the spring of 2023, according to Karen Anne Blakely, director of community programs at Abbotsford. “So we’re creative with the money we still have,” she said. “We cut back on one day of programming and ended virtual programming in September.”

The catchment area includes the neighbourhoods of the Glebe, the Glebe Annex, Old Ottawa East, Old Ottawa South, Riverside Park, Heron Park, the Hunt Club area west of Bank Street and Carleton Heights. Caregivers looking for respite for someone with early to mid-stage dementia can call Home and Community Care for a referral. There’s currently a wait list and it could take a few months to get into the program, according to Ford.

“I feel very fortunate to have this service. It’s really good for Aggi and it’s really good for me,” said David Hutton. “The only way they could improve it would be to offer more days to more people. But what they give us is great.”

Abbotsford Seniors Centre is for adults 55+. It houses the community programs of The Glebe Centre Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit, organization which includes a 254-bed long term care home. Find out more about our services by phoning 613-230-5730 during regular business hours or by checking out The Glebe Centre facilities and community programs on our website  See Abbotsford Seniors Centre’s drop-down menu for a comprehensive overview of our services and our current program guide.


Julie Ireton is a journalist and contributes to the Glebe Report on Abbotsford.

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