When Bob Mayhew first started attending the Messiah Lifeways adult day care program, he was extremely withdrawn, according to Miriam Moyer, an employee who works in the Upper Allen Township facility.
The 67-year-old New Cumberland man was coping with the side effects of a stroke. “He had a bit of aphasia and couldn’t always find the words he needed, but after coming here and socializing with his peers, he’s become much more verbal,” said Moyer, reporting that the changes carried over into the home.
His wife, Sally, who transports Bob to the program three days a week, said the changes are positive, and he’s even more agreeable now that his communication skills have improved.
“They can go on vacation, and he can be fully present now and not as debilitated as he was before,” Moyer said.
Caregivers struggle with the guilt of entrusting the care of a loved one to others, and often the decision can be daunting. Megan Stedjan, director of community support services at Messiah Lifeways, says their adult day care program is, in essence, a bridge to avoid burnout.
“Caregiving 24/7 is a huge responsibility, and our program exists as a safe, engaged, celebration of the individual to give caregivers piece of mind,” she said.
As a caregiver, Sally is glad that she finally crossed that bridge since both she and her husband have benefited from the program. She describes a recent outing where the group embarked on a “mystery bus ride.”
“That was the most animated I’ve seen him since his stroke,” Sally said. “I just absolutely love Messiah.”
Stedjan said the majority of individuals who enroll in the adult day program have a level of cognitive impairment due to stroke, Alzheimer’s or memory changes. “There are great senior centers in our area, but our services go beyond their scope to focus on individuals who need more purposeful engagement,” she said.
For caregivers, there is a much-needed degree of flexibility in the program. Messiah offers services Monday through Friday from 7:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. at their two locations in Upper Allen and Carlisle. “Some participate as often as five days a week, others as little as once a week, and we offer half days as well,” she said.
Between the two locations, about 34 individuals are currently being served. The program, which is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, exceeds the seven-to-one staff/patient ratio by two, providing five employees for every individual.
Activities run the gamut, from Bible studies, to arts and crafts, to sing-a-longs and walks, according to Stedjan. “We’re currently doing a lot of reminiscing and encouraging them to share stories from their past to help stimulate cognition,” she said.
Community engagement is another program highlight. “We want them to be engaged in the larger community. Last week we visited an orchard in Adams County,” Stedjan said.
Other community engagement activities include visits from children in neighboring schools. Pet visits are also popular. “Not too long ago alpacas were marching through,” she laughed.
Making the important decision to opt for adult day care is both personal and difficult, but determining the logistics shouldn’t be, according to Matt Gallardo, Messiah’s director of community engagement and coaching.
“Part of what I do with the coaching program is help caregivers transition into that world of taking care of a loved one,” he said. “Many are overwhelmed and have no idea what’s out there. I guide them towards services that will help them stayed energized as a caregiver.
Gallardo pairs people with services tailored to their individual circumstances. “I help them filter their options based on finances, needs and geography,” he said.
For those concerned about the cost, Stedjan says some county assistance may be available for some, and those who work with the area agency on aging are often surprised at what is available to them.
“Pricing out homecare, we’re a pretty good deal,” said Stedjan, who never tires of hearing the positive reports she receives from the enrollees and their caregivers. “Many families thank us saying, ‘I wish I would have done this sooner. If you didn’t exist, mom would be living in a nursing home.’”
For more information, visit Messiah Lifeways’ website at www.messiahlifeways.org.