Daycare centre for seniors aims to help families cope

Originally published in the Globe and Mail on July 21, 2010. To go to the Globe and Mail Website please click here

When Nicole Donaldson opens her new daycare this September, she will offer a familiar array of programs and services – snacks, field trips, play time, social opportunities and all the gentle guidance that professional caregivers are trained to provide.

But instead of catering to rambunctious preschoolers, she’ll be looking after seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A licensed practical nurse with three decades of experience caring for the elderly, Ms. Donaldson is on the verge receiving final approval for what is believed to be the first privately run adult daycare in Greater Victoria.

Located in a nearly renovated home in Colwood, Open Hearts Adult Day Centre is aimed at family members who need a break from the relentless demands of caring for ailing relatives.

“This is so exciting and so needed,” Ms. Donaldson said. “More and more people are having to care for elders with dementia at home. I want them to be able to go for lunch, make an appointment or visit friends – just have a normal life for a few hours.”

The Vancouver Island Health Authority operates 21 adult day programs for seniors with chronic health problems, serving upwards of 1,000 people at any given time.

But few of them operate five days a week and, at a subsidized cost of about $10 a day, the programs can have waiting lists as long as five month, Ms. Donaldson said.

Open Hearts Adult Day Centre will have space for 10 clients, the maximum allowed under Colwood’s daycare bylaws, and operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The facility will also offer a bathing service for dementia patients, a difficult and uncomfortable task for many family caregivers, Ms. Donaldson said.

Denuda Grzelak, a Victoria resident who quit her job last winter to care for her mother-in-law, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, said a lack of available flexible adult-day programs has prevented her from returning to work

“There’s not really anything out there you could have on a day-to-day basis so you could go and work,” she said. “We’ve lost a lot of income.”

According to a recent study released by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, the number of dementia cases in Canada will more than double over the next 30 years, from 480,000 to 1.1 million.

As a result, demand for long-term care will increase tenfold, with a cumulative economic burden to society of $872-billion over that time, says the report, entitled Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society.

Barbara Lindsay, the public policy manager of Alzheimer’s Society of B.C., said demographics are the driving force behind the increase.

“It’s largely because of aging baby boomers, that’s where the numbers really take off,” Ms. Lindsay said. “It’s going to be challenging to build enough long-term care beds, so the pressure on families is going to increase.”

After dreaming about running her own adult daycare for years, Ms. Donaldson purchased a house in a residential neighbourhood this spring and started renovations, despite uncertainty about the project’s ability to meet local licensing and bylaw requirements.