On a December morning, as temperatures dropped below 20, a dozen or so friends sat at round tables in a bright, sunny room and sipped coffee. More people arrived, some in wheelchairs, some accompanied by caregivers. A new day was under way at Christiana Care Health System’s Adult Day Program in Wilmington.
On a typical day, the Adult Day Program welcomes 20-25 people from all over New Castle County, ranging in age from 48 to nearly 100. Most of them live at home with a family member or close friend and caregiver. They arrive by family car, the Christiana Care bus or a Paratransit bus. They all have cognitive or physical disabilities that would make it impossible for them to stay at home alone. For some caregivers, having a safe place for their loved one to stay during the day is what allows them to continue working.
Clients spend the day visiting with each other, enjoying recreation and lunch, receiving medical care and sometimes going on field trips to local malls and places of interest, returning home at the end of the day.
“Our approach is total acceptance of each individual, getting to know the person and having a strong relationship,’’ said program director Gayle Pennington, MS, MA, NCC. “We try to meet everybody’s individual needs.’’ Although the adult day program is a satellite of Christiana Care, “this kind of program can’t be compared to a hospital unit,’’ she said. “This is community-based, long-term care. We do person-centered care in partnership with the caregiver and the client. People form relationships here. It’s a family.’’ Some clients have been coming since the mid-1990s.
Cheryl Royal says her mother, Greta Carter, who is “85-plus,’’ has been a coming to the program since 1995. “It has been like her family away from home,’’ Royal said. “She sits with her crew, and she looks forward to going there every morning … It’s the highlight of her day, telling us who did what at the program.’’
The staff includes Pennington, Angel Guevarez, the bus driver and activities/care assistant, and two nurses, Kelly Snyder and Faith Kamini. Services include ongoing health assessments and education, blood pressure and blood glucose checks, medication administration and lab services.
Nursing students from the University of Delaware and Wilmington University, and occupational therapy students from Delaware Technical and Community College complete community clinical rotations at the program. Skilled volunteers lead discussions of current events, provide music and entertainment, and teach art and crafts.
For family members, the program provides peace of mind.
“I’d be very worried if he wasn’t here,’’ said Liz McLaughlin, whose brother John, 67, is mentally disabled. He lives at an assisted-living community in Wilmington and has been coming to the program every weekday for 12 years. “The nursing is very good, and they know John. They know what he needs, and they call me if anything is wrong,’’ she said.
Betty Cole, whose husband Bob, 85, recently began attending the program daily, echoes that praise. Married for 63 years, Cole says her husband, a retired civil engineer and real estate broker, “has been the best father, the best husband and best grandfather. We were very particular where he was going to go.’’ When Alzheimer’s disease made it impossible for him to continue working, Betty Cole cared for her husband two and a half years, bringing him along to her workplace and on errands, but “it was getting too hard,’’ she said. She resisted enrolling him in a day program, but her daughter, after much research, recommended Christiana Care.
“I’m very peaceful leaving him there,” she said. “They’re very kind. They take care of everyone in there — even the bus driver, the helpers, they’re all so nice and polite, you feel secure. The nurses are great. We’re very happy.’’
In addition to the Adult Day Program, Christiana Care also offers adult day care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or memory disorders at the Christiana Care Visiting Nurse Association’s Evergreen Center.