In a secure courtyard near Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, on a daily basis, you can find a gathering of people engaged in any number of activities. They might be playing Bingo or trivia. They might be working on a small building project. If you head into the indoor area, you might find them baking or preparing snacks.
What might surprise you is to find that all of these men and women have Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia.
The Kirkpatrick Day Program is a social adult day program provided by the Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York. The program, which dates back to the early 1980s, came under the auspices of the Alzheimer’s Association in 1987.
“The services we provide as part of the day program are for individuals with a diagnosis of dementia,” said Jared Paventi of the Alzheimer’s Association. “The day program is fairly unique in that there’s a new activity every half hour to hour, and the activities are tuned to the interests and needs of those involved in the program.”
The day program will be highlighted next week as part of National Adult Day Services Week. The association will host a series of open houses from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. each day from Monday, Sept. 16, to Friday, Sept. 20, with an evening open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York offices at 441 W. Kirkpatrick St., Syracuse, near the Inner Harbor.
“We encourage people to come visit. If it feels right to them, they should get involved with it,” Paventi said. ‘When you think about how the disease affects the mind, because of the loss of short-term memory, it impacts judgment and things like that, getting people to come to a new place, there’s a lot of fear. It’s best to work on the transition at the program. That’s why we recommend taking a tour or bringing in your loved one for a visit and getting a feel for the program. But the program sells itself once the person is here, because there’s so much going on. It’s catered to the individual needs of each person.”
The staff at the day program is specifically trained to cater to the needs of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“Our employees go through a great deal of training in terms of how to relate to the patients, how to communicate with them and deal with the behaviors related to various types of dementia,” Paventi said. “Dementia encompasses a variety of diseases, and our staff is trained in that. We’re not just hiring people who are going to roll in off the floor and babysit. Our staff is really tuned toward individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia.”
That’s why the Kirkpatrick Day Program provides such services as music and dance therapy, which have proven effective in helping patients with dementia.
‘That helps to relieve the anxiety a lot of people develop due to the disease because it helps them to express themselves” Paventi said. “Alzheimer’s creates confusion. It causes issues with language. Dance and music allow them to express themselves in nonverbal ways.”
Patients are also aided by the extensive socialization provided by the program.
“Socialization is so key,” Paventi said. “We’ve been doing it since we were children, from playing with each other in groups of friends to going to school to going to work. We focus on the social aspect and really promote those things. It seems silly, but even playing word games and working together to come up with answers to trivia questions [really helps]. It encourages that camaraderie. It’s quite a thing.”
Moreover, the day program provides relief for the person caring for the patient.
“It provides the opportunity for them to remain at home as long as possible. It allows the caregivers to take care of their own needs. They can go to work knowing that their loved one is in a safe place. They’re not just sitting in a chair watching TV or sleeping all day. They’re being engaged all day long,” Paventi said. “When you look at what caregivers go through — the stresses of caring for someone with dementia, the anxiety and worry — they’re constantly worried about whether the person is safe, about how they’re feeling. They’re feeling guilty when they’re at work. There’s the issue of lost productivity, because they’re leaving early and they’re showing up late. If they’re not working, they’re feeling like they never get a break. They worry that their loved one will wander. The day program gives them that break. The day program is a safe place that’s socially enriching and stimulates their loved one’s mind. It keeps the caregiver’s morale high so that they can provide the highest possible quality of care that they can.”
For more information about the Kirkpatrick Day Program, including the criteria for admission and costs association with the program, call 472-4204 or visit alz.org/centralnewyork.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.