Alzheimer’s patients are often reluctant to leave familiar surroundings — and when you think about it, who isn’t? So don’t be surprised if this happens. An adult day center offers respite for the caregiver, not to mention activities and stimulation for the patient — and in a safe environment.
Using a participant-friendly name for the center could make your loved one feel more comfortable. You might call it “the club,” for example. Others have had success calling it “school,” “work” or “volunteering.” You’ll know what will work best with your loved one, and whether certain techniques you have used in the past will be useful again. Perhaps saying, “This is your time to spend with your friends” or, “Please do this for me” will work well.
Some caregivers advocate simply getting into the car and driving directly to the center. Answer questions along the way with positive answers such as, “It’s your day to go to the club” or, “We’re going to a fun place.” Often, someone with Alzheimer’s won’t remember being there before, but then also have some recognition that it’s a “safe” place with friendly people. If you still encounter resistance upon arrival, the center’s staff will be experienced in helping get your loved one into the center.
Make your good-bye short and then leave! If the staff is properly trained, they should know how to take it from there, making your loved one feel welcome and loved.
Get to know the staff well so both you and they feel comfortable. They’ll probably want to ask you questions in order to give your loved one the best care they can. You may call during the day to check on how your loved one is doing. Often, in fact, the staff encourages this.
One key to success is to develop a consistent schedule. There will be various reasons for your loved one to miss a day, but the benefits to keeping a consistent routine far outweigh the urge to just drop in whenever you think “it’s about time for another visit.” Both you and your loved one (and, to some degree, the center’s staff) will benefit from consistent attendance. Participants often adjust well once they get into a routine and are familiar with it. Besides, this is something that your loved one might very well look forward to. Sharing time with people with like interests and/or backgrounds is usually a good way to spend time.
Another way to overcome any complaints or objections from your loved one is to have someone who is NOT the primary caregiver take him or her to the center. This could be a friend, neighbor, someone from church, a family member or even a transportation service. The caregiver then will not be a “bad guy” while the person who will deliver your loved one will become a “hero,” especially at pick-up time (if the adjustment to the center still hasn’t gone smoothly).
When your loved one arrives home, always try to put a positive spin on what happened during the day. Talk about any activity or menu items from the center. Ask how he or she felt about the experience. Even if there’s not much memory of what happened, stimulate conversation and reinforce good feelings. Stay focused on the positives and reassure your loved one that he or she will always be able to come home. Reassurance is crucial for dealing with feelings of insecurity.
Sometimes caregivers hear that their loved one had a “bad day” at the center — from the loved one, but not the staff. The person might say that he or she never wants to go back. This is where you have to take control, with an adult version of “tough love.” If you feel the center is a good thing for your loved one, you should continue the routine of getting the person there. It takes positive reinforcement and persistence to find adjustments and make a routine work. Remember that because your loved one might be attending only part-time, it might take longer to adjust than if he or she were there for longer periods of time.
If the center feels good to you, it is probably a good place. If your loved one complains but your gut is telling you something different, talk with the director of the center or a social worker and discuss the situation. If you still don’t feel comfortable after that, find another center! You are usually not locked in to many terms and you are able to come and go at a center without penalty.
Another thing to consider is that some individuals with Alzheimer’s might become over stimulated if they are around a lot of other people, regardless of the environment. You must watch this carefully, too. In some instances, staying home with company or an attendant might be better than placing your loved one in a situation where he or she might be constantly over stimulated, with too many people around.