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Daybreak service for memory patients looking to grow

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Aroostook Agency on Aging’s adult daybreak service is helping fill a need for those living with dementia and other cognitive impairments and their caregivers.  

An estimated 5 million Americans have memory impairments, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, said Dottie Sines, the agency’s wellness and nutrition director. In Aroostook County, memory impairment is estimated to affect more than 2,000 people, she said.

Aiming to address that problem and help family members caring for loved ones with memory impairment, the Aroostook Agency on Aging launched its adult day service in 2017. The service is available 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Caregivers can drop off their family members at the Gathering Place for all or some of those hours, giving caregivers time to run errands, attend their own medical appointments or simply have a break.

“There’s a lot of social interaction and activities,” Sines said. “They get lunch and snacks. We have our own kitchen. It’s very homey. It’s an atmosphere people feel comfortable in because it’s small. A lot of times when people get a diagnosis of dementia, they get isolated. People don’t know what to do.”

The service costs $12.57 an hour, although there are funding sources that can help offset that cost, Sines said. To participate, individuals with memory impairment need to be 18 or older, capable of performing daily living activities with limited aid and take their own medications if needed.

Currently, five people come throughout the week, and the program is able to serve up to 20 people at a time. She said the agency also is looking at ways to potentially bring the program to communities in northern and southern Aroostook County by partnering with other organizations that could serve as hosts.

Sines said the program is not considered a medical therapy, but offers therapeutic benefits for adults and seniors with dementia and memory problems.

“This type of experience for people with memory impairment can help slow the progression of the disease. What we’re trying to do is keep them out of a nursing home for as long as we can.”

Agency staff members and volunteers spend the time with the individuals talking, listening to and playing music, playing games and enjoying meals and companionship.

They’ll visit the nearby Presque Isle Community Garden at the Birch Street public housing apartments, and a volunteer is building raised garden beds at the Gathering Place.

Sometimes children or volunteers will visit and play music on a piano or guitar. One man who used the service before he died had played guitar previously, and he spontaneously picked up the guitar and started playing, despite his memory impairment, Sines said.

“It’s amazing what they do remember. A lot of times we find things that they’re still able to do that the caregiver didn’t realize they could do,” Sines said. “People don’t always realize the capacity that’s left.”

Sines said that caregivers are welcome to spend time with their loved ones at the daybreak program to get a sense of how it works or to participate in activities.

She said the program would also welcome more volunteers.

“There’s a tremendous number of retired nurses and teachers out there and I would love to enlist them as volunteers.”

For more information, visit AroostookAging.org or call 1-800-432-1789.  

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