TRURO, NS – Joyce Cavanaugh offered the perfect line in her praise of the VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) Adult Day Program in Truro.
“I would come every day if I could,” she said, a sentiment that fellow VON client and day program participant Mary Ann Patton quickly jumped on.
“So would I,” Patton said enthusiastically.
The women, both seniors, attend on Wednesdays and Fridays at the HA Johnson Manor’s multi-purpose room in Truro. Thursdays are for younger adults and on Mondays and Tuesdays, it’s held in Milford and Tatamagouche.
“VON, in the province, has been running day programs for 20 plus years and with Colchester-East Hants, we have one of the bigger programs,” said co-ordinator Monique Natividad, while Bingo numbers were being called in the background at a recent Friday session.
“The program was originally set up to accommodate seniors who may have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s. We were looking for folks who were, maybe, living with their children or with a spouse, understanding that caregivers need a little bit of a break and the clients themselves are, quite often, isolated, lonely, many of them depressed, ”Natividad said .
She said the program, with a schedule from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm, was created to provide a safe and comfortable environment for folks to come.
“(A place) caregivers know their loved one will be cared for,” she said. “When folks come here, we treat them like royalty, and they can’t wait to come back.
“Caregivers know their loved one is going to have meaningful activities to take part in, healthy meals and snacks, help if they need assistance in the washroom, with their meals, their medications… they’re going to be cared for while they’re here. ”
Natividad said as they meet clients at the outside door, it’s nice to see them moving quickly to unbuckle their seat belts to join the program for another full day of socializing and fun.
“Caregivers are asking, ‘what do you do here?’” She said of the welcomed inquiry.
“We have all the time in the world to listen to their stories which some will repeat day-in, day-out, but it’s fresh and new for us. And we’ll see the spark when the spouse comes back to pick up their loved one. The few hours apart, they missed each other and are happy to see each other again. We’re happy we can offer that respite. ”
With activities that range from general discussions to trivia, reading, crafts, games, and singalongs, mixed in with the snack and lunch, clients are kept busy throughout.
“So for a lot of them, they’re sleeping better at night, they’re talking more at home, are more engaged,” Natividad said. “Those parts of their brain are working whereas, maybe, they’re not when they’re sitting at home all day, mostly by themselves.”
Cavanaugh said the busyness is one of the aspects she appreciates most.
“You are never bored; it’s one thing right after the other, ”she said. “And I like it because you make friends… I like all of it.”
Patton said she recently turned down an offer to join family for a July trip because she didn’t want to miss Day Day Program.
“I love coming here,” she said. “Visiting with the others, playing games, making crafts, and all the good food. It’s a great place to come. ”
Natividad asked 60-year-old Stephen Higgins to join the conversation. Injured as a child while getting off a school bus, the Onslow man is confined to a wheelchair and deals with other health-related issues from the accident, including impaired speech.
Still, his response to questions about his enjoyment of the program rang loud and clear.
“We fell in love,” Higgins playfully answered about his first time participating in the program being guided by Natividad. “A friendship was formed.”
Natividad said she was contacted by a nurse at the assisted living building where Higgins resides about his possible inclusion in the program. The nurse said he was quite lonely and younger than most in the facility.
“She wondered if he would be a good fit to come to the day program and I thought, well, ‘let’s try a visit,’” Natividad said. “He didn’t know anything about the group, but as soon as he came off the elevator, he felt a real connection. He has known a lot of struggles in life, so I’m so glad we could connect. ”
And now reconnecting with the program, which is operating at, almost full capacity after being, like everything else, impacted by COVID over the last two years. Natividad said it went from a shutdown to slowly building back up with phone calls to start, eventually home visits, and then much smaller groups getting together. She said there is now room to add some people and they welcome inquiries about folks joining the day program.
“For the first time in a couple of years, we’re promoting some empty spaces at the program. We have always been full, with a waiting list, ”she said, noting it may be an activity even people familiar with VON aren’t aware of.
“A lot of people don’t know about the adult day program; the benefits, the wonderful feeling people have. You come into this room and it feels like home. It’s very comfortable and warm. The meals and snacks we serve are nutritious and delicious, and attention we give all of our clients, we really do care about all of our clients. ”
For more, contact Natividad at 902-305-4798 or by email at [email protected]