Caring for a spouse, parent or other loved one with dementia is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week job. Add caring for children and working a full-time job, and the stress can become overwhelming.
"Managing stress by practicing self-care is important because it promotes your health, helps you cope when things that cause stress are beyond your control, and helps you maintain the balance you require to care in a loving and effective way," writes Jane Meier Hamilton in the winter edition of care ADvantage, a free magazine published by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
One of the ways to reduce caregiver stress is to take advantage of respite services, such as adult day care. The Adult Day Care Center at Family Service-Upper Ohio Valley, 51 11th St., Wheeling has been serving families for 25 years this month.
Marjorie Lekanidis, 73, paints shamrocks during an arts and crafts program at the Family?Service Adult Day Care Center in Wheeling on Monday. The center provides supervised care for adults with dementia-related illnesses to help family caregivers continue working or receive much-needed respite.
"A lot of people say it's a blessing after they discover we're here," said Barbara Sweeney, center coordinator for 23 years. "It helps give them peace of mind when they see their mother or father is looking forward (to coming here)," she added.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and serves clients of any age and from both sides of the river.
Stephanie Wiley of Wheeling, whose 79-year-old mother-in-law Mae has Alzheimer's disease and attends the center daily, said if it weren't for the center, Mae would have to move to a nursing home or move in with her and her husband.
"It's just not safe for her to be home alone during the day. ... She loves having her own space, so taking her to the center helps us keep her in her own environment and maintain her independence," Stephanie Wiley said.
The day care center staff offers clients a safe environment with supervision, a nutritious noon meal, health monitoring, group activities designed to enhance indpendence and memory stimulating activities such as arts and crafts, games, movies, reminiscing, daily exercises, field trips and special events.
"I notice in the morning she could be having a bad day but after she comes home she's sharper," said Jane Dorisio, whose 85-year-old mother, Bernice, is an adult day care client. "The interaction she has helps to stimulate her mind, so I think overall that helps with her well-being."
"I would recommend this place," Jane's mother said. "My family doesn't want me home by myself, and this is just wonderful. They take care of us and keep us busy."
"All the ladies are so nice," Mae Wiley said. "We always have something to do; it's not boring. That's what I like."
Assistant coordinator Sandy Hall said Wiley helps wash dishes every day and spends a lot of time cutting out pictures the clients have colored. The pictures are then glued to the paper bags in which are placed the home-delivered meals that Family Service coordinates.
Sweeney said some caregivers are reluctant to bring a parent or loved one to the center because they feel guilty for leaving them. Men in particular, she said, have a hard time bringing their mothers to the day care, especially if Mom puts up a fight about going.
"But if they would just give it a chance and let them come anyway, they will find it's better for them," Sweeney said. "If a client was emotionally upset and not benefiting from the program, I would call the family and let them know." This rarely happens, Sweeney said, because once the client "becomes one of the gang, so to speak, they love it."
Peggy Baller Everly, Family Service director of geriatric services, said West Virginia caregivers may qualify for financial assistance through the Families of Alzheimer's In-home Respite Program. Family Service offers both in-home respite and center services which are considered "congregate respite" under the West Virginia FAIR program.
In-home respite involves a trained worker going into the home for up to 16 hours a week.
"There are times when it's better if the worker is in the home (rather than the client going to the center). The caretiver can get things doen around the house without worrying about their loved one leaving or wandering around looking for them," Everly said.
"In many cases, I have known the caregivier simply to go in and take a much-needed nap. Others may use that opportunity to go to lunch with friends, get their hair done or pick up groceries," she added.
Everly has been with the day care center since it opened 25 years ago on March 15. For her many years of service to local families, she has been awarded the 2012 Rockefeller Award by the West Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. She and W.Va. Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, will be honored at the association's Thanks for the Memories luncheon on May 23 in Charleston.