According to the 2013 U.S. Census, nearly 10% of Utah’s population was aged 65 and over (translated into numbers: 300,000+ individuals). This percentage is expected to dramatically increase as the Baby Boomer generation ages and people live longer due to technological advances in healthcare. Age-related conditions, including physical and cognitive impairments, will increase along with the need for caregiving services. Over 70% of people with Alzheimer’s disease lived at home and received care from unpaid, family members in 2013. Becoming a caregiver can be an unexpected and overwhelming challenge. Most caregivers are spouses and many have health concerns of their own. Family caregivers have reported positive and negative experiences associated with their responsibilities of providing assistance with bathing, dressing, eating, money management, transportation, and safety (to name a few). Positive feelings include companionship, strengthened self-esteem, appreciation, and satisfaction in fulfilling needs of a loved one; negative effects include higher risk for depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, poor physical health, limited opportunities to attend to personal needs such as rest, exercise, and diet habits, financial losses, and isolation.
Programs and interventions have been developed to assist people cope with the demands of caregiving. Respite services not only provide temporary relief from caregiving duties, but also offer education, health services and referrals, and opportunities for socialization. Additionally, respite services can help prevent crisis situations, such as injury or abuse.
Some of the benefits I’ve seen recently include:
- Norm comes to Aspen 3 times a week while his wife attends her book club meeting, exercise classes, and enjoys her personal hobbies. He looks forward to his Aspen days, as he is warmly welcomed by friends, encouraged to tell his jokes, and loves to sing and harmonize. His mind is challenged when we play word games, such as rhyming, would you rather, and name ten; and he must have pitched a few baseballs in his time because when we bring out the ball for a game of catch, Norm is fast and good! Norm and his wife are separately engaging in healthy behaviors and are anxious to be reunited at the end of the day.
- Penny spends 5 days at Aspen because her husband continues to work full time. As a former elementary school teacher, Penny positively influenced hundreds of children; she taught math, writing, spelling, reading, music, and dance. Although her dementia is in the later stages, she is still capable of sorting, organizing, and correcting a folder of children’s school work we complied for her. Penny keeps busy and feels included. She loves to watch State Fair and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The break for Penny’s husband allows him time to focus on work, run errands, and take care of personal business he cannot do while caregiving.
- Although Alice doesn’t speak much, she enjoys playing name that tune and usually knows the missing word before anyone else. She taps her feet during singing time and Sit and Dance exercises and loves to watch others. Her husband enjoys golf, skiing, and other physical activities while Alice is at Aspen. He is energized and ready to take over the responsibility of her care by the end of the day; and Alice is happy to see him come for her.
- Dorothy comes to Aspen a little less often, due to physical limitations, but enjoys reading aloud to friends at the center. She engages others in stimulating conversation during meals and art which is greatly appreciate by staff. Socialization and sense of purpose are what Dorothy benefits from most.
- Dan is very particular with his paints and colored pencils—a true artist! He likes to keep pencils sharpened and working areas clean. He is a bit hard of hearing, so being in a friendly and happy environment helps keep him from boredom and isolation. Dan’s wife is very active with their children, grandchildren and her job. She knows Dan is safe, happy, and busy while he is at Aspen. Both are satisfied with the day’s accomplishments.
- Mark has Parkinson’s disease. He attends activities at Aspen 2-3 days a week for the socialization and physical challenges provided—he is good at ball, ring toss, and word games. He doesn’t care to participate in art projects, but enjoys listening to people talk and laugh. Mark is encouraged to do as much for himself as possible while being closely supervised to prevent falls/injury.
Clients are encouraged to be the best they can be by participating in the activities they enjoy most with people they can trust and have fun with. Laughter is good for mental and physical health, and we get large doses of it daily at Aspen! We work with individual strengths and interests to build personal challenges, activities, and opportunities for clients. Spouses and family members are free to rest, relax, take a day trip, go out to lunch with a friend, exercise, see a movie, have a massage, or visit family (to name a few possibilities) while we have a stimulating time at Aspen Activity Center. Respite provides a renewal of energy and peace for all concerned. 😀
~Tamara Nixon, BS, CHES