LutheranCare’s Adult Daycare ‘like family’ for members and staff

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CLINTON — From Clinton and Sauquoit, to Rome, Sylvan Beach and even Herkimer, seniors from throughout Oneida County and beyond are gaining independence, staying active and making new friends while their caregivers are given the respite time they need through the LutheranCare Adult Daycare program.

Challee M. Kohl, program director, said Adult Daycare is a social model day program for people who may be home alone and need time and opportunities to get out and socialize, make new friends and engage in some fun activities.

Breakfast and lunch is served daily, Monday through Friday, “And we’re almost always having some kind of party with snacks,” Kohl smiled.

LutheranCare offers transportation to and from the program through its fleet of handicap accessible buses. Adult Daycare runs from 9:30 in the morning to about 2:30 p.m., which doesn’t count transportation time. A total of about 40 seniors take part in the program, with around 17 attending daily. Kohl said Adult Daycare has the capacity to host about 21 seniors each day.

“We have handicap accessible buses and we bring them door-to-door,” Kohl explained. “And we just don’t go to Utica and the surrounding area, we go out as far as Sylvan Beach, Sauquoit, Herkimer and Rome.”

Kohl said she and the LutheranCare family look forward to the start of the new year when the facility’s new cottages, a $2.3 million project that was about two years in the making, will be open to residents. The cottages feature 13 bedrooms, but overall, the facility has the capacity to house 14. Cottages are specifically designed to meet the needs of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory impairments.

The cottages will be included as part of the campus’ Memory Support unit/Age in Place model, and will offer activities and interactions designed to provide a sense of community, while enhancing the quality of life for residents. They will include 24-hour a day/seven-days a week on-site staffing, including a Registered Nurse and Licensed Practical Nurses; an enclosed courtyard for residents to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment; and a dining area to promote pleasant meal times and socialization.

The goal of the cottages project will be to “bridge the gap” in Lutheran Home’s continuum of care and provide more appropriate and cost-effective care for individuals living with dementia, officials said.

“We’re starting to specialize in dementia care,” Kohl said. “I recently went through 40 hours of training with the Alzheimer’s Association (Central New York Chapter) to care for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

Kohl will also be at charge of programs offered at the cottages, which will be similar to those being held at the Adult Daycare program.

What Kohl wants community members to realize is also how programs at LutheranCare, like the Adult Daycare, help to relieve the burden on caregivers. She said in her experience she has come across caregivers who are burnt out or need the support of others who are going through similar situations while caring for their loved ones.

“This program helps provide much-needed respite for caregivers,” Kohl said. “Some seniors are being cared for by their husband, wife or child, and they’re with them 24/7. Sometimes Adult Daycare is the only respite time they get so they can go get their hair done, go grocery shopping or go to a doctor’s appointment. And when their loved ones are here, they are safe — the caregiver doesn’t need to worry that they’re home alone, they’re eating breakfast and lunch and if they’re on any medications, we can prompt them when it’s time to take them.”

Lutheran Care also offers support groups for caregivers, even for this caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia. And for those who attend a support group, their loved ones are cared for at the DayCare program for free that day.

“For example, we have a group that meets on Tuesday morning. We have all the caregivers come in and after their meeting, they can leave here and have the rest of the day to go do the things they need to get done while their loved ones stay here all day,” Kohl said.

She said the support groups help caregivers feel that they can be connected to others who may be experiencing the same challenges as they are, and they have the opportunity to cope together.

“I’ve facilitated some groups and when someone is experiencing a challenge, sometimes they’ll hear that someone else if facing the same thing,” Kohl said. “That way, you’re not feeling so alone. Being a caregiver can make you feel very lonely,” like no one understands what you’re going through, “or you don’t know what to do, but here you feel like family. And sometimes it helps to have that outside perspective.”

That “family” feeling continues in the Adult Daycare program with members and even the staff, Kohl said.

“This is a job that take a lot of patience, but we’re very selective as to who we hire here,” she said. “But we’re all like family here, which is very special.”

The Adult Daycare program offers a variety of activities to guarantee that seniors will remain active, both physically and mentally. That can be anything from just sitting down and talking to taking a shopping excursion.

“We have a scheduled calendar of activities here,” Kohl said. “We do a lot of outings, although we tend to slow down a little during the winter months. During the summer we had an outing to The Wild in Chittenango and we’ve been to the At Home store (in New Hartford).”

She said, “We base our outings off of them. For example, we were recently scheduling our calendar of events for January and we went over to everyone during breakfast and lunch and asked, ‘Is there somewhere we haven’t gone yet?’ or ‘Is there something you’d like to do?’”

Local animal shelters will bring in puppies for visits to the Daycare program once-a-month and there are also several exercise activities, in addition to different holiday-themed activities and events.

“We have a group coming in from Madison School that is performing for us, which will be a nice intergenerational activity” — where children will get to socialize with the seniors, Kohl said. “Every month we also travel to a different country — we started that a few months back and it has become really popular. We went to Sweden once and in December, of course it’s the North Pole. In January we’re planning a theme that will be a week-long cruise in Italy where we’ll even have lunches coordinated with it. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Kohl said staff really enjoy hosting the program’s annual Christmas party, which will be held Friday. Each member will receive a gift, and the program director said it’s a heartwarming time for both members and staff.

“We just don’t give them a present, we ask them what they may want for Christmas and we work with Santa for Seniors,” Kohl said. “For some of our seniors, they don’t have family so this may be their only get-together or the only gift they’ll receive for the holidays. So we make sure we make a really big deal out of it.”

Cost to attend LutheranCare’s Adult Daycare program is $45 a day, which includes transportation, or $37 a day for those able to get their own transportation. The program contracts with the county Office for the Aging and Continuing Care and Senior Network Health, which may pay for a member to attend if they’re eligible.

For more information about Adult Daycare at LutheranCare, go to https://www.lutherancare.org/services/adult-day-services, or call 315-235-7383.

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