How One Lodi Center is Making It Easier to Celebrate Moms With Dementia

Terrie, the Lodi Adult Day Care Director, with a family member

Terrie, the Lodi Adult Day Care Director, with a family member

My guess is if you’re reading this story, it’s because in some way you’ve been personally affected by dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term to cover different diseases that cause memory loss, confusion, or personality change. The most common disease is of course Alzheimer’s. It’s a really difficult disease to struggle with, especially for loved ones of the person with the disease. And we all know that as of today, there is no cure. What we do have today though, is a lot of well trained, caring, loving people to help families who going through this often painful stage. It’s never easy, but we can thank God (or whoever you want to thank) for some of the amazing people who make going through the stages of this disease a little less difficult. My own grandma has dementia, but it wasn’t very noticeable until the last couple of years. Other than her I didn’t really know anyone with dementia until I started working at Vienna, a local skilled nursing facility, in 2015. It was a huge learning curve for me to start working with people with dementia, and I greatly underestimated the amount of stress it puts on families. To this day I don’t understand how people who care for their family members at home do it. It is really hard work, physically and emotionally. We all make the decision to do what’s right for our families, and for many people, for many reasons, that’s caring for your loved one with dementia at home. For those in Lodi who do make that commitment, many have come to know and love Lodi Adult Day Care.

"Just spend time with them.

It’s the gift of time.”

Lodi Adult Day Care is at Hutchins Street Square and is part of Adventist Health Lodi Memorial. The Director, Terri Whitmire, has earned a reputation from many who know her for being passionate and committed to the well being of seniors in our community, or as a friend referred to her and her team, “Godsends.” Lodi Adult Day Care is for older and disabled adults who cannot fully care for themselves. The program provides friendly, stimulating care and support through a variety of daily activities that encourage group participation. Families can bring a loved one by in the morning, then pick them up later in afternoon. It gives caregivers who are still working the ability to maintain a job, and caregivers who are no longer working get a much needed break. “If people are coming to the daycare, their caregivers are getting a break, they’re getting rest.” explained Terri. “So when they’re with that person they’re caring for they’re not tired and exhausted so their time together is better.” Terri and her team are pros at helping families. For families, knowing that you can relax while your loved one is safe with someone you trust is a huge relief.

You probably already know trying to get the illusive, perfect family picture with little ones and a great grandma is next to impossible, but there's still a lot of cuteness happening ;)

You probably already know trying to get the illusive, perfect family picture with little ones and a great grandma is next to impossible, but there's still a lot of cuteness happening ;)

Every year on Mother’s Day, Lodi Adult Day Care holds a beautiful Mother’s Day Tea for all of the families. My friend, the one who calls the team “Godsends”, has a grandma at the Adult Day Care and is the one who told me I needed to share this tea party. The program in general means a lot to her family, and this is one of their favorite events. So I went to the Mother’s Day Tea and, as promised, it was lovely. All of the tables had tablecloths and vases full of pink flowers. A counter was filled with pink cupcakes, strawberries, china and silver tea sets. There was an entertainer singing classic songs that everyone knew, and each woman was gifted a butterfly lawn decoration to remember the day. It felt special. The Adult Day Care team really pulled out all of the stops, and it was clear families appreciated it. Families seemed content and genuinely happy, enjoying their time laughing together. I went around and talked with several of the families to learn about their experiences. I chatted with one woman who takes care of her mom at home. She was there with her daughter and her granddaughter who was about 2 ½. She splits the responsibility of caring for her mom with her three sisters, and she shared not only about how much her family appreciated the break, but how much her mom benefited from being able to go to the Adult Day Care and socialize. “She says she goes to school and when she comes home she has a bunch of stories about school. She really loves it.” They looked in to Lodi Adult Day Care after it was recommended by their family doctor, and has been a real blessing for their family. To receive a break a few days a week and know their mom is safe, and that she’s really happy means the world to them.

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I chatted with another family who was new to Lodi Adult Day Care. This woman I spoke with was celebrating with her mother-in-law. She and her husband split the responsibility of caring for his mom with his sister. This family had the same sentiment, they appreciate that they can continue to take care of their mother while also maintaining some freedom. Plus their mom is really happy here. “When she leaves at the end of the day she’s talkative. She especially loves bingo. The other day she won a fan and some candy, so she was pretty happy about that.” One of the other things this family member brought up that I hadn’t thought of was the comradery that comes with being a part of this day care. Having a loved one with dementia can be isolating, and being a caregiver for that loved one can feel even more isolating. Being a part of this community, gives caregivers the opportunity to meet other people who are going through similar situations, and can provide a safe place full of help and understanding. I asked Terri about if being part of this program helps family members to know how to better approach a loved one with dementia, especially on holidays that might be more difficult, such as Mother’s Day. “It gives people an opportunity to celebrate with their loved ones on a special day and a lot of times, this is the only time they can celebrate with them. I do agree with you, there’s a lot of people who just don’t know what to do or what to say or how to act and if they can see how we interact with them it makes it easier.” She went on to say what’s most important is spending time together. “Just spend time with them. That’s all they want. They don’t need things, they don’t want things, they just want you to spend time with them. You know, whether they have dementia or not, you’re still there, you’re still in their presence, and they understand that. You also don’t know there might be a few seconds or a few minutes there where they’re lucid and they know who you are. Just spend time with them. It’s the gift of time.”

“It’s an opportunity for us to honor those special ladies in our lives, moms, grandmas, aunts… Mothers Day is a special day.”

Terri and her team at Lodi Adult Day Care do so much good work in our community, and are able to really make an impact on the lives of those they serve. The keep holidays, like Mother’s Day, special. While many kids of people with dementia might feel a sense of loss on these types of holidays, Lodi Adult Day Care turns this into an opportunity to laugh together and appreciate mom.  Lodi is really fortunate to have this program available, especially as a more affordable option for caregivers. When I asked Terri if she could change one thing in the world, what would it be, her answer came as no surprise. “If there’s one thing in the world I could change it would be that we had a cure for Alzheimer’s. That would be wonderful.” It really would be wonderful. Until then, we continue to be grateful for people like her and her team who help us take care of our loved ones, and help us continue to celebrate these holidays. “It’s an opportunity for us to honor those special ladies in our lives, moms, grandmas, aunts… Mothers Day is a special day.”