Chapel Hill: Opinion

Caregiver’s Day Out: An innovative respite program

Every Wednesday in an activity room on the first floor of the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center on Homestead Road, you will find a group of very special people!

This has been the “meeting place” for a gathering of participants and staff since November 2007. This group, Caregivers Day Out (CDO), is a safe haven for individuals who have cognitive and physical impairments and on Wednesday of every week they are cared for by trained staff and volunteers.

The CDO respite program was started as a pilot program funded by seed money from the National Family Caregivers Support Program. This innovative day respite program was designed to give the family caregivers “a break” from their consuming, confining and exhausting care responsibilities and provide them opportunities to meet their own needs.

In addition, the program was created to provide elderly individuals who have cognitive and physical impairments opportunities to socialize with others who have similar impairments and to experience the high regard that the staff have for them.

The hope was that this model would be replicated by local churches in the interest of offering this service to more families.

‘Hugs and kisses’

Each Wednesday, family members or public transportation assists participants with transportation to and from the program. The day begins at 11 a.m. with “hugs and kisses” and the singing of “Good Morning to You.”

After a warm welcome, CDO members are ready to begin a day filled with fun and enrichment. Members of the group are engaged in individual and group appropriate activities, i.e., word puzzles, bingo, dominoes, bowling, exercise, dancing, painting, group discussions of current happenings or reminiscing, and much more.

In addition to the daily activities, field trips are planned to afford participants new experiences and to enjoy fun activities away from the center. Maple View Dairy is a member favorite!

At lunch, everyone gathers in the great room for a nutritious lunch served at tables uniquely reserved for us. A variety of snacks are offered in the late afternoon and often staff and caregivers supply the group with special treats. The day ends at 4 p.m. when members leave for home and staff prepare for the next Wednesday and another great day at Caregivers Day Out.

Feeling comfortable

There are no fees associated with this program, but contributions are welcomed.

Referrals should be made directly to me, Carolyn Jefferson, Program Manager, at 919-929-1742. Home or office visits are scheduled to determine the suitability of the potential participant. Beginning with the first interview, considerable energy is directed toward helping the caregiver feel comfortable with the idea of trained staff, students, interns and volunteers caring for their loved one.

It is still the hope, that partnerships can be created with faith communities and that churches all over Orange County can develop group respite programs. For more information about replicating the Caregiver Day Out program in your church or organization, please contact me.

Carolyn Jefferson, BSN, is the Caregivers Day Out program manager with Orange County Department on Aging.