Sunday Seniors: Lake Sunapee VNA Relaunches Memory Care Respite Program

Valley News Calendar Editor
Saturday, March 10, 2018

New London — After a two-month hiatus, the Lake Sunapee VNA’s Good Day Respite Program has returned to New London.

The program, which has been a fixture at the VNA for more than 10 years, is a day program for adults with memory disorders. Caregivers can bring their loved ones to the Kearsarge Community Presbyterian Church on Mondays and/or Thursdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch and snacks are provided to participants and activities include dice games, gardening, craft projects and live music performances.

“We had a waiting list for awhile,” said Shellie Brown, community health services director at the Lake Sunapee VNA.

Then late last year, there were only a handful of regulars attending. So the nonprofit organization paused the program while staff members worked to drum up interest. A similar program in Lebanon also needed more participants for a time last summer, but it has since seen an increase in attendance.

There currently are spots available at both locations.

While there is a need for the service in the community — particularly with an increasing senior citizen population and by extension an increasing memory disorder population — there are challenges to connecting the service with the people who may benefit from it, chief among them is apprehension among potential attendees.

“Fear not only from the participant,” Brown said, “but also the caregiver.”

People with memory disorders thrive when there is a set routine and anytime a new activity is introduced, there is an adjustment period.

Caregivers may experience guilt for not being by their side, and while they are welcome to stay during the program, staff encourage them to leave.

“We won’t stop them, but it kind of defeats the purpose,” Brown said. “The whole purpose of this is to do caregiver respite as well.”

In order to attend the program, there are requirements including approval from a physician.

“They have to be pretty self-sufficient,” Brown said.

The program is nonmedical and staff members do not distribute medication. There are also volunteers who assist with activities.

The program costs $35 per day, but financial assistance is available. Many of those who start attending, Brown said, continue to do so for years.

“We make sure we implement their likes and dislikes into the program and stay away from their dislikes,” Brown said.

For example, if staff know that a participant enjoys bird-watching, they’ll bring in books or puzzles with birds on them.

In addition to activities, people with memory disorders are able to socialize with others who are going through the same thing.

“Some of them are comical, some of the are quiet,” Brown said. “You learn so much from them. Their lives are extraordinary.”

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Good Day Respite Program, visit https://lakesunapeevna.org/services/respite or call 603-526-4077. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.