A few months ago, a woman approached the director of our Memory Support community. Her husband had dementia, and she was worn out from caring for him. Like many people with dementia, he was prone to wandering and to approaching her repeatedly, often for the same needs she had only just addressed, though he couldn’t remember she had done so. Keeping an eye on him was basically a full-time job. She needed just a little bit of time, she said—just enough time to go grocery shopping, clean the house, and maybe take a nap. She’d correctly heard that we offer day services for people with dementia, and she was hoping she would be able to bring her husband to our community for a few hours every once in a while so she could get things done. There was a problem, though. This couple was living on a fixed income, and their budget just wouldn’t stretch to the fees.
This couple likely came to us because Immanuel has long been a leader in services for people with dementia. In the 1970s, we opened one of the first specialized environments for people with dementia in the Immanuel Skilled Care Center. These days, the Lodge at Buffalo Hill, our Assisted Living Memory Support community, provides a secure, vibrant environment where seniors can thrive. 24 residents live there, but we know that’s not nearly enough capacity to fill the need in our valley. We also know that dementia is in most cases progressive, and there’s often a gap between when a person first starts experiencing symptoms and needing support and when they’re ready to live full-time in a specialized community.
We started our day program to address these needs. Now, community members can bring their loved ones with dementia to the Lodge for only a few hours—or a day—at a time. These guests still go home at night. There are a couple of benefits. First of all, caring for someone with dementia is exhausting, and it’s particularly exhausting when that person is a spouse, parent, or other relative. Many family caregivers get hardly any time to themselves because they need to make sure that their loved one is safe at all times. Daily tasks like shopping, cooking, and home maintenance can be challenging—and forget time for relaxation or socialization. Second, having dementia can be isolating for a person who has it, as well. Especially in the early stages, people with dementia know they are not themselves, and because they can’t do everything they used to do, they can feel embarrassed and depressed as well as confused.
Respite care provides relief for both the person with dementia and the caregiver. This can be a huge benefit to both individuals. But it costs money, and not everyone can afford to pay even the moderate fees the Lodge charges for these services. In some ways, the couple I told you about in the opening paragraph of this post believed that respite care was a luxury. Their budget wouldn’t stretch to anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, so we haven’t been able to help them—yet.
To help people like them, we would like offer a different payment model to make the program accessible to our Valley’s seniors in need. While no one would ever pay more than the regular rate (currently $15/hour), families in need might pay less according to their income. Because our costs remain the same regardless of a guest’s ability to pay, we need your philanthropic support to help us get this new payment model off the ground.
When making decisions about necessities, most of us prioritize things like housing, food, and medical care. Rest breaks and socialization tend to be some of the first things eliminated when we’re making decisions on tight budgets. That’s the calculation our visiting couple had to make. But studies show that respite is more of a necessity than a luxury. In a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, 60% of caregivers reported at least one of three problem indicators related to their health (having one or more chronic conditions, being in fair or poor health, or having a disability). Since only 33% of the non-caregiver general population reports such indicators, caregiving clearly has health impacts. Respite programs like the Lodge Day Service lets caregivers take time to take care of their own health. This isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
You can be part of providing this necessary service by giving to Immanuel. Simply click here and choose “Memory Care Program” from the dropdown menu to designate your gift. Your gifts will make a real difference to our area seniors in need and their caregivers of all ages. Thank you.