Bob Nordby can play cribbage and tell stories for hours on end. And that’s exactly what he gets to do each day at The Bennett House, a new daytime care center in Coeur d’Alene.
His daughter, Sandy Motz, was relieved to find a place where Nordby can spend time doing what he likes and still return to his own bed at night.
“I used to worry daily, but I don’t worry at all now,” said Motz, an escrow officer.
Nordby has short-term memory loss from a type of dementia. A couple of weeks ago, while home alone, he went outside to try to get into his truck.
“He fell in the snow and was exposed out there for two to three hours,” Motz said. “He had hypothermia. He got down to 85-degree body temperature.”
That’s when she began looking for help and learned about The Bennett House, a cozy adult day care center that specializes in the needs of people with memory loss, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, and older adults who no longer can manage independently.
“It has been fabulous,” Motz said. “In just a couple of weeks I’m seeing a difference in him. He’s sleeping better, he’s easier to get up, he’s a little more steady on his feet.”
Families caring for loved ones who can no longer be left alone face a difficult choice: hire in-home help, move them to a residential care facility or quit a job to watch over them. While still not widely available, adult day care is another option, one that can be far more affordable.
The Bennett House charges $70 a day for up to 12 hours of care. That includes breakfast, lunch and a snack. Plus, a registered nurse on staff can provide minor medical treatment, owner Rick Bennett said. In-home care easily can cost twice as much, and assisted living can run into hundreds of dollars a day, Bennett said.
“If you’ve got a sick parent and you don’t want to put them in a nursing home, or you can’t afford to put them in a nursing home, here’s a very affordable option where you can still go to work during the day,” he said.
In many cases, adult day care can delay or prevent seniors from going into assisted living or nursing care.
“It allows them to keep Mom or Dad home longer,” Bennett said. “Because the day will come when they will need more care than we can give them. But if we can prolong that a couple of years …”
A toll on caregivers
Bennett opened his center last month in a second house on his property in a wooded neighborhood near the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. The intent is to provide older adults mental and social stimulation while giving caregivers time to work, run errands or have a rest.
“I know what it’s like to do 24-7 care. It’s a big job,” Bennett said.
He spent four years caring for his mother, who had Alzheimer’s, before she died 10 years ago. The constant attention she required left him feeling exhausted, isolated and depressed, he recalled.
“I felt like a prisoner in my own home,” Bennett said.
The mental and physical toll on caregivers can be severe, said Joel Loiacono, executive director of the Inland Northwest chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“It’s not unusual that we lose the caregiver before we lose the person with dementia because of the stress that she has on a day-to-day basis,” Loiacono said.
Family members can experience guilt, grief and depression under the weight of caring for a parent or spouse with dementia. Some also resist the idea of day care because they are in denial about the stage their loved one is in or they have misconceptions about what such a service offers, Loiacono said.
The Alzheimer’s Association often tells families that part of providing the best care they can is to know when to seek help.
“Most people wait far too long to use adult day programs,” said P.J. Christo, a registered nurse and the Alzheimer’s Association’s outreach coordinator in Coeur d’Alene.
Just like home
Adult day care is not a new concept. Some programs have been around for decades.
In Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai Health opened its Henry Heyn Adult Day Center in 1996. Twenty years before that, Providence Holy Family Hospital began its adult day health center in Spokane.
Independently run adult day care is an emerging service that’s likely to grow in the wake of aging baby boomers. And the homelike atmosphere of The Bennett House appeals to some families.
“This is just like going to someone’s house,” said Motz, who drops off her dad each weekday morning.
“He doesn’t think of it as a day care,” she said. “He just thinks that he’s going to see his friends George and Rick and play cribbage and eat cookies.”
With room for 12 guests, it’s a compact and welcoming space adorned with comfortable furniture, wood paneling, family photos and knickknacks. There are games and puzzles on the shelf, TVs tuned to old Westerns and other classic shows, and two colorful fish aquariums.
Guests can take part in arts and crafts, activities such as trivia and bingo, and exercise sessions. Or they can just chat or take a nap. In warmer months, guests can sit outside and enjoy a garden.
“It’s been a blessing for us, because we don’t want to put him in a (nursing) home,” Motz said of her father. “We promised our mom that we would try never to do that. And we promised him … I don’t feel like we’ll have to now.”