By Julie Ireton
For Ian Calvert, whose wife Caroline has dementia, the Alzheimer’s-Dementia Day Away Program at Abbotsford House at the Glebe Centre gives him the respite he needs every week.
“I can feel pretty alone as a caregiver, but I don’t feel alone, because people at Abbotsford are on my team,” said Calvert.
For the past three and a half years, his wife has been attending the day away program. Prior to COVID-19, she would attend one full day a week. “For brain health we have to be physically and socially active. The variety of activities is great. The staff is terrific. They’re very caring, and they’re fun,” he said.
Due to pandemic restrictions, the program went online for months but returned to half days in late 2021. There are plans to go back to full days once it’s safe to do so.
While the activities and exercises keep Caroline engaged and active, he says it’s also a chance for him to take a walk or do errands on his own. “It’s a break for me,” said Calvert who’s her primary caregiver.
The program is important for the clients with dementia, but it also means a lot to all the caregivers, notes Shirley Lee, program facilitator at Abbotsford. They concentrate on three types of activities – physical, mental and social. “We try to incorporate an exercise class. It could be a game where they have to lift, bend, sit and stand quite often. We do a lot of quizzes and reminiscing. And the social component is connecting with others,” said Lee.
Before the pandemic, the program ran four days a week with 12 clients a day.
With the assistance of three or four volunteers, clients are able to gather in smaller groups based on interests and functionality. Games and activities are adapted and geared towards a person’s cognitive level. “So they can succeed in whatever programming we’re trying to do,” said Lee.
The program adapted quickly as the pandemic took hold in 2020, introducing “senior centre without walls,” a teleconference program in which clients could dial in and participate in trivia or music challenges. Since the program has a waitlist, the virtual program allowed potential clients who weren’t in the regular day program to start participating in the Zoom activities.
“People were isolated. They didn’t have support services. So we opened up the Zoom activities to anyone on the waitlist. It allowed us to get to know them,” said Lee. “When we reopened and they arrived in person, we were familiar faces and voices.”
Given the isolation during the COVID lockdowns, especially in the winter, caregivers have been anxious for the schedule to go back to normal. “My wife was always reserved, but now she’s more so. She has less confidence and doesn’t take initiative. But at Abbotsford, she really responds and she’s engaged. She’s clearly enjoying it,” said Calvert.
Clients for the Alzheimer’s-Dementia Day Away Program need a referral from Ontario Health, and there continues to be a waiting list. The cost is $20 for a half day and $35 for a full day. Round trip transportation is also available for $12 for those in the Abbotsford catchment area.
Abbotsford is your community support centre for adults 55+. We are 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 telephoning us: Mon.-Fri .9 a.m.– 4 p.m. at 613-230-5730 or by checking out all of The Glebe Centre facilities and Abbotsford Community Programs on our website www.glebecentre.ca.
Julie Ireton is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Glebe Report on issues affecting Abbotsford.