Theres respite in store for the many locals caring for senior loved ones who need assistance with their daily lives.
Our Place, an outreach of First United Methodist Church of Durango, will open Tuesday to provide care for seniors suffering from Alzheimers disease, dementia and other problems that require a lot of caregiving.
This will be a godsend for my people, said Elaine Stumpo, executive director of the Alzheimers Association of Southwest Colorado. Im thrilled about Our Place. Theyre such lovely ladies.
Marty Sheppard, president of the board of directors of Our Place, who was involved at a similar place in Texas, said 70 percent of families coping with loved ones who have Alzheimers and dementia do it at home, with family members handling all the caregiving.
Many times, caregivers wait until they are so worn down that they become desperate for a break, she said. We hope caregivers in our community will opt to use our service so they can preserve their own strength and not start to feel resentment toward their loved one by not being able to carry on with their own lives and activities.
Our Place will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Seniors who walk through the door will enjoy crafts and art projects, music and sing-alongs, board and card games, exercise (in chairs for those who cannot stand) and holiday celebrations. A hot lunch and snacks will be served every day.
Were going to play it by ear for a while on how the schedule works, program coordinator Tanya Boyce said. Once we have a set clientele, we might make a schedule for two weeks out or so.
Sheppard said keeping its clients busy is an important part of Our Places service.
Quite often, aged persons sit and watch television, which leads to napping during the daytime, she said. That means less sleep at night for the aged and the caregiver. Our program offers mind stimulation, social interaction and physical fitness. All should help the entire family get a good nights sleep.
Stumpo said she cant wait for Our Place to open. There are hundreds of families in Southwest Colorado dealing with caregiving situations, she said.
My big fear is that people arent going to utilize it, she said. But seven people from this weeks support group and 10 people from last weeks all said they were interested.
With an aging population and the number of seniors and families needing help, why hasnt a center like this opened before?
Its expensive, and theres a lot of liability, Stumpo said. The sheer number of people required is a problem. But they already have 19 trained volunteers, so I think they can do it.
In fact, Stumpo was involved in the training, which included caregiving information and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
She sees a huge need that is unfulfilled.
I know people who cant even take a bath because they have to be with their loved one all the time, Stumpo said. I know others who havent been out of the house in months. Sometimes only two or three people show up for the support group, and I know thats because they couldnt get someone to sit with the patient.
Sheppard said an assessment interview needs to be conducted before a participant may stay at Our Place. Volunteers there also can help a family create a care plan for their loved one.
There are 72,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimers in Colorado, with that number expected to double in 15 years, Stumpo said. Thats not counting those with dementia. And were seeing more and more people taking care of both parents and children, the sandwich generation.
While Stumpo hopes new research about how Alzheimers works will lead to a cure, shes glad that at least now, her people have some place to go.