Should You Consider Adult Day Care For Your Aging Parent?

schoolAre you considering sending your parent to Adult Day Care? It’s a hard decision to make with so many considerations. You must go to work everyday without worrying about your loved one constantly…are they okay, are they roaming outside of the house, are they a danger to themselves and to the house?

If you are lucky enough to be a stay-at-home caretaker, then you are one of the lucky ones, although some might not think so. Going to work while care taking a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia, can be a painful and overwhelming dilemma, leaving you mentally exhausted and leaving your boss at work, scratching his head. Frankly, you aren’t able to do either of those important jobs well because your main thought everyday while at work is about what is going on at home with your parent while you are not there.

If they are nearing the stage of being a roamer or wanderer, then you are really in trouble, since they can get seriously injured, lost or create a dangerous situation for others while out of the house. If this happens a lot and you don’t have understanding neighbors, they can report this activity to the Adult Protective Services, which is also not a good thing. At some point, we all come to the reality of the situation, which is that we can’t leave them alone in the house anymore because they are a danger to themselves. It’s easy to find yourself in denial about your parent’s progression in this disease. It’s not easy to admit that they won’t be the person that you remember and it’s very sad. But, when it becomes so obvious, or something bad happens to make you know exactly that you must take action…that’s when we start researching our options.

In my life, I found myself in this same situation. For the 5 years before, my mother with dementia was able to be home alone without an issue or concern while I went to work. Everything seemed perfectly normal…then, what seemed to be overnight, she started to mentally decline and was leaving the house in search of her mother, or to look for an apartment, or look for a job. The first time it happened, one of my wonderful neighbors brought her home. Then on another day, she left the house, in search of lord knows what, was on the main road when another kind neighbor saw her talking to a complete stranger who had pulled off the road to help her. Again, the neighbor brought her home and called me at work to alert me. The last time it happened, she walked about 2 miles from the house, when one of my neighbors spotted her while on her way home in the car. She of course pulled over and brought Mom home. When I got the call at work that last day, I had to literally break into a meeting to tell my boss, the CMO of Marketing, that I was leaving for the day. I just told him…see ya…gotta to go. It happened that fast.

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Photos: Eleanor Van Meter on her first day of Adult Day Care looking happy and ready
for her day…getting on the Van that came to pick her up.

From there, I had to research our options, which lead me to a social worker through the Visiting Nurse Service network. Through working with her, she was able to get me onto the fast track for financial aid to affording Adult Day Care. We got her into the local Center in my area, which I knew a neighbor had used for her mother a few years before. It came highly recommended and I felt secure in leaving my mother there while I was at work. Only one thing…Mom didn’t take to it. She consistently tried to leave the building, so an aide had to be assigned to her in order to keep her there. Of course Mom was very argumentative at that point of her disease, so it became a difficult situation. After a few weeks of Adult Day Care, I had to try and find another way to keep her safe while I was at work, as I was having to leave work everyday to pick her up early. She was a handful.

As it turned out, we were able to get her a home aide, Cardine, who became the angel in our lives until her death last September 28, 2014. She was with us for a year and a half giving my mother exceptional care 5 days a week. Every situation has a different solution. Some people take very well to Day Care and others like my mother didn’t. I definitely recommend giving it a try. They have all sorts of activities, arts and crafts, music, games, mealtime, plus they have a chance of developing friends and having somewhat of a social life. Social life in itself is an important consideration because it’s so important to keep their minds engaged with this disease. There are doctors and nurses on staff if they are needed, god forbid. I found the staff to be very compassionate and caring which was a comforting. Whatever works best for your situation is the way to go. There is no straight answer..not one size fits all when it comes to Adult Day Care. I hope this helps you.

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Home Health Aides For Dementia Patients Can Be a Wonderful Thing


Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be very challenging and also exhausting for the caretaker. I was many years into it before I realized that I needed the help of a Home Health Aide. I was lucky, the first timeout of the gate with Cardine. She was the first Home Health Aide that was send to help with my mother suffering with dementia. She became my hero very quickly.

When first taking on a parent with dementia, we go through so many different feelings and experiences, that often leaves our heads spinning and feeling frustrated all at the same time. Many of us don’t have a healthcare background or any resources at our fingertips to help us cope and make sense of the situation that unfolds before our eyes on a daily basis. Really, we are flying blindly into the path of the oncoming train, sometimes, not understanding what’s ahead.

When I first took on my mother, after moving into my house from her California apartment, I noticed a few little things, but like we all do, it’s brushed off as “oh, she’s just getting older”. After awhile the symptoms get worse and we know that something is very wrong. After we seek a diagnosis, we start our journey into the unknown with our loved one. Life for your parent will never be the same and for you also. It’s almost like when you become a first time parent, changing your life forever, only this time it’s with an unhappy prognosis.

For years I took care of Mom and we went through all of the different stages that most dementia patients and caretakers go through, paranoia, accusations, hiding their belongings, aggressiveness, depression, sadness, incontinence, denial, lack of interest in daily hygiene, preoccupation in trying to make sense of paperwork, confusion, wandering, getting lost, looking for her mother, loss of words and substitution of words, etc. There were so many more things that I went through with her, and since we are all living individual experiences, I’m sure others have gone through even different things that I know nothing of. My situation with Mom, finally came to a point where I could no longer leave her alone while I was at work because she was a safety hazard to herself and others. That’s when I started researching and got the social workers involved, finally getting on the right track in finding a Home Health Aide for Mom.

mom-cardineIt was a long road to learning what to do in order to get help at home, but through Mom’s doctor, who had earlier applied for the Visiting Nurse Service to come to give her B12 shots every month, I was introduced to the social workers of that organization. Since her condition was becoming a safety issue, we discussed our options through meetings and house calls. Of course, I couldn’t afford to go out and hire a Home Health Aide on my salary, so I was naturally feeling very stressed on how to bring help in. Working was something that I must do in order to survive, it’s not debatable as with so many caretakers in the same situation these days. It’s a huge dilemma for all involved.

Needless to say, we found a way and soon thereafter, Cardine arrived. She was the best thing that had every happened to us since Mom came to live with me. We were so lucky to have her as she was experienced, compassionate, concerned and very good at her job. She was mentally present at all times, always putting my Mother’s best interest first. I was very relieved that we were so fortunate to have found her.

Cardine had 12 hour shifts, 5 days a week making it possible to commute to my job and keep the roof over our heads. She would take care of every need that my Mother had, personal hygiene, meals, bathing, companionship, arts and crafts, interaction and keeping her mind engaged and active. She was a one woman band and a rock star in her profession. While I was at work, I was absolutely sure that my demented Mom was in good hands and also safe at home. She wasn’t lonely, and she was content and well taken care of. What more could I ask for?

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Photos: (1) Cardine on Mom’s 86th birthday, (2) Cardine drying Mom’s hair after a shampoo, (3) Cardine and Mom, Eleanor Van Meter doing puzzles together.

Home Health Aides are a wonderful choice for your loved one.

Bottom line for me, Home Health Aides are a wonderful choice for your loved one. If you can find the right fit through an agency, it will change your world and that of your parent.

 They will make the quality of life for the patient and the caretaker better, giving more time to enjoy with your loved one. If you find yourself in this situation, reach out to a social worker through agencies in your area. Reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association who can advise you further. Call the physician caring for your parent, who can open many doors. Although it may be different for others, In my experience, if you don’t ask them, they won’t offer any open channels for help in the home. You must present your needs and concerns to make it known that it is a safety issue. They will then advise what avenues and options are open to you. There are ways to provide a loved one with a Home Health Aide if you are financially unable.

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Happy Birthday Mom, I Hope You’re Celebrating Wherever You Are, Without Dementia

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Photos of Eleanor Van Meter: (1) Mom on her 86th birthday last year with her wonderful Home Aide, Cardine, January 22nd, (2) Mom, on birthday night, ready for bed after candles and cake

Hard for me to believe that a whole year has gone by since my Mom, Eleanor’s last birthday. Seems like yesterday really. I look at the photos above and can hardly believe how good she looked and feisty she was, as in comparison to the last few weeks last September. If she had been able to hang on for a few months longer, she would have been 87 today. She would be, what I believe, to be the oldest person from this side of the family. It would have been quite a milestone for her and for me, in knowing that we did it…but it was not to be.

Before she moved in with me, we would talk by phone every Sunday night about writing a children’s book together. It’s something that I have always wanted to do and together with her, we could have made a great team, if only her dementia could have been held at bay awhile longer. She had a way with words, and she loved them, writing and combining different words to suit what she was feeling at the time. She could be quite whimsical as well. I could have illustrated the book and she would be a major contributor of the writing…and there you have it, a mother and daughter production…but it was not meant to be…at that time at least. I still have intensions of writing this children’s book, but now, it will be a tribute to her rather than a collaboration. It’s okay…her influence will be obvious in spite of it all.

Mom also loved poetry. She loved reading it and she loved writing it. I have a whole folder of things that she has written, some of which came from her darker days after she had lost the love of her life, Dwight Van Meter. The poem that I cite here was an interesting and simplified look at what she was must have been thinking of her life in that particular year, with regards to how her life has changed over the years. I probably wouldn’t have understood her feelings when I was younger, but I certainly understand it now.

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Photos of Eleanor Van Meter: (3) My favorite childhood photo of my mother, she was a cutie at the beach. (4) Mom with me, another favorite with her huge smile, (5) Mom looking great in her summer fashion.

How happy
as a child
I walked into the sun,
Squinting and laughing,
full of mirth,
Secure in a world of light,
The sun
now always at my back,
I turn to see once more
the shining past
Before the night
envelopes me at last,
I remember it was good,
I thank God,
and walk on,
Secure in a world of memories

Eleanor Van Meter

Mom was a very deep person with many feelings that she mostly kept tucked inside, but after reading some of her writings, I can see she let it all out in her poetry. I think that it gave her peace. I remember after she had moved in with me almost 7 years ago, her poetry folder was the most important thing to her. Nobody was allowed to see it and after the dementia started to take a hold, I would find her ripping up a few pages. I sensed that she probably didn’t want anyone knowing that part of her, or maybe, she possibly let out too much of what she was feeling at the time and wanted to keep it secret. It’s okay, I still have a few left that I can look through from time to time as a memory of her. I have a few of the poetry books that she particularly loved with pages earmarked and notes taken on some of the pages which can be very telling also. I think that there was so much more to her than what we saw. Like all of us, she was an original and I will always miss her. Happy Birthday Mom!


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My Demented Mother has Turned into a 2 Year Old

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It’s summer time, I’m home recouperating from a recent surgery in the hospital which is giving me a lot of time for reflection. The photos above have always been favorites of mine, I guess because it shows Mom as a young blonde haired girl with a world of possibilities ahead of her. To look at these images, there are no signs of OCD, no signs of depression and no signs that there was a troubled life waiting for her in adulthood. My guess is, that these photos were taken at Coney Island Beach.

Since I’ve been home during work hours, I’ve noticed that Mom has really been declining. She has good days and bad days and you never know what you will get. It could be good one minute and 5 minutes later it could turn. For instance, this morning, Cardine was trying to give her medication and she would push them out of her mouth with her tongue. What is that…it’s 2 year old behavior. When we kept telling her to take the medication she stands up and tells Cardine that she will smash her face. I’m having a really hard time understanding this behavior from an otherwise very sweet woman. Cardine handles it very well as she is trained to do so. I, on the other hand have a very hard time watching my mother behave like this.

In the past 2 weeks, she’s not been eating well. She plays with her food and then eventually just pushes it away. When you try to feed her, she won’t take it. I called the doctor to ask for advice on what to do. They took 3 days to call back and I still don’t have any good answer as to what to do. I actually hung up a little annoyed after to talking to the nurse practitioner, not the doctor. Meanwhile, we’ve been giving her Ensure when she will take it, offering her meals and happy with what she does eat. Let’s see where this goes.

So, I know that dementia is a one way road…there is no cure. I know we are closer to the void and I am not sure where we go from there. My demented mother is sinking deeper into her disease as every day passes and there is nothing that I can do to stop it. Even knowing all of that, my mind still can’t help thinking about what more I can be doing to make it better. I bless Cardine’s patience everyday of the week!

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Dinner For 2 Please, Dementia Patients And Social Interaction



There was a time when Mom would always sit at the kitchen table with the family and eat meals. That’s what the old timers did and families today still do it..thank goodness. Since she’s been at my house she’s never sat down at our kitchen table to eat dinner with the rest of us, except once when my son Shad came to visit. Not sitting at the table was mostly an OCD thing, but over the years, with the dementia setting in, she has forgotten about the OCD, but out of habit, still wouldn’t sit at the table. So, with that, she would opt to have dinner in her room and I, of course, humored her and served her dinner on a table in her room, which became the norm. If that’s what made her feel comfortable, I would of course, do that. I continued to eat in the kitchen, usually multi tasking while eating because there is not much of a window at night after the work day to get things done. Crazy way to live but that’s today’s world. 

Photos: Above (1) Mom, Eleanor Van Meter’s family, mother, father, sister, aunts and uncle out on a picnic, pre 1949. Below: (2) Mom after dinner on her 86th birthday…going to bed looking content, happy and tired.

Birthday 86

After Cardine, Mom’s home health aide started with us, I noticed that they would do things together in her room, such as eating lunch together, coloring or playing games. I also have noticed that Mom has directly responded to that by being more alert and in touch with reality. Cardine told me that Mom wouldn’t finish her lunch until she ate her lunch also. Mom would always leave some food on her plate saying it was for Cardine. I guess that she was feeling badly eating in front of Cardine, so she would take that as a hint to heat up her own lunch…sure enough, Mom would finish her lunch. I don’t know whether it is a “polite” thing or a “being in company” thing, but it seems obvious to me that she does better when eating in company with social interaction. As a matter of fact, looking back, she will never take the last of anything….even if it is the last chocolate chip cookie… that is self control…or perhaps a result of growing up in the depression years.

As a kid, she would always eat dinner at the table with her sister Lillian and her parents. When I came along, I would always sit at the table with my grandparents as well…seemed to be a family thing that she somehow lost along the way. Now, when I come home from work, I settle in and fix both of our dinner plates and I go sit in her room and eat with her. She eats all of the dinner on her plate happily, we have some conversation and we watch a tv show, even though she really doesn’t understand what is going on with the show, it doesn’t matter…it’s interaction and stimulation. She seems more alert and ready for her night after dinner. Btw…Vladimir doesn’t feel badly that I’ve abandoned him in the kitchen….mainly because he has always eaten every leftover in the fridge like a vacuum cleaner before I even get home, so he’s finished for the night.

After it all and in the end, I know that I will be happy that I had spent time eating dinner with her after work, creating some good quality time with her, knowing that she had a full stomach at the end of her day. It’s also a good thing for her interacting with people and engaging her brain. It’s a win-win situation.

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Mom’s Trip to the Doctor

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Oh what a day it has been! Mom has out done herself today. Dementia patients have a hard time handling change of any kind and even though I know about that, it is always hard to deal with. Today’s change of routine was in the form of going to the doctor. I scheduled a vacation day so that I could take Cardine, her home aide, and my mother to her doctor appointment. Cardine arrived at 7:30 as usual, and we right away started waking Mom up so that she could get dressed and ready for her doctor appointment. Not sure when it all started going south, but from the moment she opened her eyes, she had decided that she was not going to the doctor both ignoring us and being very uncooperative. Cardine and I both looked at each other instinctively knowing that it was going to be a hard day ahead.

By almost 10am I had pretty much come to the conclusion that there was no way…negative…no way she was going to get dressed and leave the house for anything or anybody, so I reluctantly called to cancel the appointment. Not more than 5 minutes after I cancelled the appointment, she went into the bathroom for her morning routine and agreed to get dressed…and who knows why or what changed. I ran to the phone to call back and grabbed back her appointment hoping it wasn’t yet filled. Success, still open, so Cardine dressed her and we made our awkward way down the steep driveway to the car with the mother in tow each holding her up under her arms. I could hardly believe it…she was seat belted in and we were on our way and on time. We got to the doctor’s office, dropped her off at the front door and I went to park the car while Cardine and Mom went in. Although she had to wait quite awhile in the exam room, pictured above, she compensated by ignoring us and falling asleep on the table, obviously not happy with either of us or the situation. I look at the 2 photos above and wonder how can life look so beautiful and hopeful at one time and so sad in another. But apparently, for the most part, aside from the side effects of her meds causing an induced Parkinson’s disease, she is healthier than any of us with a good pulse and blood pressure. Considering how many sweets she eats, I am amazed…and a little confused!

Appointment went well after all the stress of the morning and we got home in one piece, gave her lunch with a bath chaser! I can tell you that she was none too happy about the bath! What is it about dementia patients that make them hate being bathed? Even so, at the end of the day, I have a somewhat healthy, clean and fed mother for the day. Tomorrow is another day. Let the weekend begin!

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