First adult care center in Bonner County in works
Sharon Walton, of Sagle, Idaho, cares full time for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Walton provides for all her mother’s basic needs, including preparing meals, getting up with her in the middle of the night, and stimulating her mind by giving her math problems to work on.
But sometimes, Walton just needs a break. And, she said, her mother needs contact with people her own age.
“When she gets out … it really kind of gives her hope,” Walton said. “I can see a big difference.”
Precisely for people like these, the Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho has dedicated $35,000 toward starting an adult care center in Bonner County, the first in that county. The center aims to create a stimulating and safe environment for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and to provide respite for their caregivers.
The agency wants to raise an additional $20,000 and is looking for a location with at least 1,500 square feet in which to open a center this spring, most likely in Sandpoint, said Esther Gilchrist, the Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) hired to set up the center.
“We will start a center somewhere in April or May,” Gilchrist said. “We want it to be a sustained effort. We really want a proper facility, properly equipped, and properly located.”
The seed money for the center came from grants from the Administration on Aging/Health and Human Services and the Idaho Commission on Aging, according to the adult day center’s Web site.
Gilchrist said research shows Bonner County is home to about 400 Alzheimer’s patients, but population estimates would place that number closer to 900. About 70 percent of those people are cared for at home, she said, adding that, on average, 60 percent will wander and get lost.
“It’s a 24/7 job,” she said. “We need to be sure once it’s established it is going to be ongoing. The older people get, the more likely they are to get Alzheimer’s. And we are aging.”
Gilchrist said the agency will create an activity center to provide help with socialization, stimulation and entertainment. The center would charge $7.50 an hour and would be staffed by certified nursing assistants.
Kootenai Medical Center’s Henry Heyn Adult Day Program has been open since 1996 and cares for an average of 16 people per day. Staff members entertain and stimulate the clients with music, trivia, massages, manicures, snacks and other activities, said coordinator Irene Gage. The center provides a needed break for caregivers and a safe place for their loved ones, Gage said.
“After coming on a regular basis, they get to know each other and they make friends,” Gage said. In addition, she said, their family members “know they’re not going to just sit around and watch TV.”
The initial plan in Bonner County is to care for four to five patients two days a week, for four to five hours per day, then to expand. The agency already has a list of people waiting for caregivers, Gilchrist said.
“We’ve already had people calling saying, ‘When will you be open?’ ” Gilchrist said.