‘Day Away’ carries on as a ‘Day In’

Abbotsford’s Day Away program for clients experiencing dementia carries on online until in-person visits outdoors are possible.   Photo: Jen Dare

By Julie Ireton

More than a year into the pandemic, the team at Abbotsford at the Glebe Centre has become creative with technology, music and distanced visiting to keep clients in the Day Away program engaged and active.

The Day Away program is for clients between 60 and 90 years old who are currently in the early to middle stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Before COVID-19, the program ran out of Abbotsford House, the seniors’ centre across from Lansdowne Park. The clients and staff gathered regularly to play games, do exercises, sing songs, chat and have lunch. Over the past year, the sessions have become virtual on Zoom or through telephone conferencing.

“This week we did scavenger hunt,” said Jen Dare, program facilitator at Abbotsford at the Glebe Centre, who has been working with seniors for 30 years. “They were running around and finding things, having fun with what’s around them. Some clients interact very well, while others are not sure where the voices are coming from.”

The online programming has also included music trivia and reading short stories. A few times, Dare and her team have created individualized activity kits with puzzles and games to drop off at the clients’ homes.

For those who aren’t able to join via Zoom, a teleconference “party-line” has been set up to gather seven or eight clients by phone. While switching to the virtual platform has meant a steep technology learning curve for both the organizers and the caregivers, many quickly figured out how to get together online, said Dare.

The caregivers of clients are quite often spouses who also depend on the Day Away program to bring some respite, allowing them time to do something on their own.

“Keeping in touch with caregivers is also important,” she said. “We find out if they need other outreach services or if they need more help in the home. It’s a difficult time for all of us, but if you’re caring for someone 24/7 it’s more challenging.”

Throughout the pandemic isolation, some have struggled with keeping their loved ones active, said Dare.

“It certainly is a struggle at times, finding things to do. Boredom sets in and then you can see other behaviours,” she said. “But even on our Zoom calls, it’s wonderful to see them engaging with each other. They just miss that togetherness.”

As the weather warms up, organizers will plan porch visits so their Day Away clients can catch up in person. Expanding vaccination programs are also bringing hope that regular programming will eventually resume.

“It’s the game changer. Once people have vaccines, we can look at gathering again,” said Dare. “We can’t figure it out just yet, but there is hope we’ll get some sort of normal back again.”

Abbotsford is your Seniors Active Living Centre 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 telephoning 613-230-5730 during regular business hours or by checking out all of the Glebe Centre facilities and community programs on our website at glebecentre.ca.

Julie Ireton is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Glebe Report on issues affecting Abbotsford.

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