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SHERIDAN — For many, the Sheridan Senior Center is a hangout for residents who want to make the most of their retirements. The Day Break program takes that concept to a new level to empower families.
Day Break Director, Barbara Blue, said most people don’t know about the program until they find themselves in a situation where they are taking care of an elder family member, but also holding down a job outside the home.
The Day Break program not only boasts a capable staff to be with elders during regular business hours, but also keeps a certified nursing assistant handy to help with bathing and personal care.
“It’s a social model of adult care,” Blue said. “It’s about socialization and getting people out of their homes into a safe environment.”
While the program is specifically designed for elders who live with their working children, other clients come by once in a while so they’re not stuck at home alone.
“It’s about people,” Blue said. “We get to know people and develop those relationships. It’s really important.”
A typical day starts when participants arrive at the Day Break facility, which is connected to the main Senior Center, via either a ride from a family member or the minibus.
After a complimentary breakfast, the group settles in front of the television to watch the news and “The Price Is Right.”
“Don’t try to turn off the TV when ‘The Price Is Right’ is on,” Blue warned, explaining that though the Daybreak program focuses on activities like board games, crafts and staying busy, clients ultimately have the final say in how they want to use their time.
“When that’s over,though, the TV goes off.
“I feel like people can watch TV at home, so when they come here, it’s all about activities,” she said.
Most attendees say they enjoy showing up to Daybreak for the socialization, and they expect to be kept busy.
The larger picture of the Daybreak program is that the day services offered enables families to keep their loved ones out of a full-time nursing home.
Caretaker Neddie Cook said she found the Daybreak program after her mother’s failing memory made it so she would be better off if she wasn’t alone during the day.
“She originally had dementia, and then it went into Alsheimer’s,” Cook said. “I would have to quit work if it wasn’t for Daybreak and the people there. They take excellent care of mother, and I feel confident when they’re watching her.”
Cook said that starting the Daybreak program wasn’t easy.
“I thought to myself, ‘Mama’s not going to go for this’,” she admitted. “She doesn’t have any hobbies or interests in anything. Mother’s hobby is helping people — cleaning house, getting coffee, folding clothes, whatever, and I thought she wasn’t going to like it.”
However, Cook said she was pleasantly surprised after she took the plunge.
“We got her to go and stay there one day, and (the staff) just fell in love with her,” she said. “They thought she was the sweetest thing, and Mother liked everybody there. They take excellent care of her.”
Cook said an incremental part of making the Daybreak program work for her family was that the staff sat down with her and together, they were able to establish a customized care and diet plan.
“You really have to watch her like a hawk because of the Alsheimer’s,” Cook said.
“Wandering is always a big thing,” Blue agreed, adding that the Daybreak facility has buzzers on the door so the staff knows when people come and go. She said the Daybreak program can help people with dementia or Alzheimer’s in addition to those recovering from a stroke.
However, the social model of the program does not provide for advanced medical care, so participants should be relatively medically stable.
“A lot of people, when the bring their person here, it’s kind of their last effort before a nursing home,” Blue said. “Sometimes, it’s too late by then, because they really need the extra care we can’t provide. That’s why they need to come sooner.”
Blue said that when appropriate, the Daybreak program can help a senior live at home or with their family longer.
“This keeps people out of the nursing home before they have to be there and provides a place for socialization,” she said.
Daybreak services are billed on a sliding-scale fee schedule based on the income of the attendee. From there, the senior’s rent, insurance and medical costs are deducted before the Daybreak fees are established.
The Daybreak senior care model is a unique resource to the Sheridan community that aims to help both elders and their caretakers arrange sustainable living situations. Next week, county officials are planning to issue a vote of confidence toward the program by endorsing a grant to build a new, separate facility to house the program.
Sheridan County Grant Administrator Mike Mackey said Sheridan’s County Commissioners will consider endorsing the grant at their next regularly scheduled meeting.