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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published March 29 2009

Bursack: Adult day care a useful service

Dear Readers: Adult day care – or as some are known, adult day services – are alive and well in the metro area. We’re fortunate to have many choices, but even then, it seems, adult day services aren’t the first things that pop into the mind of a frazzled caregiver.

Most people are well aware of in-home care options, assisted living and nursing homes, but adult day care has been slower to catch on. The value for some people is immense.

Whether you choose a free-standing care center, one that is in a private home or one affiliated with a nursing home or assisted living center, the goal is pretty much the same. Adult day services (my preferred term) provide the elder with a safe, healthy environment, creative recreation, choices as to crafts and physical activities and snacks and meals.

Many services provide a bus for picking up the person who needs care. Most people begin by bringing the person in, so they can gradually get used to the center and know the staff a bit before being left with the caregivers.

The benefits are not just for the person who gets the care. Of course, the obvious benefit for the at-home caregiver is the time to go to work, do errands or just spend some time alone.

This last benefit is what prompted a call from Nils Buringrud of Fargo. Nils’ wife had Alzheimer’s. The first benefit he noticed from taking his wife to adult day services, was that when he got home, he could sit in his chair and just “be.” He didn’t have to have “eyes in the back of his head.”

For a few hours, he could relax and not worry about his wife wandering outside, or falling or hurting herself in some way. He could listen to the silence, if you will. And he did. That is something I hear from people regularly. The new twist Nils put on was this: The service helped him gradually adjust to coming into the home without his life’s partner. It helped him adjust to being at home alone. It helped him get used to having her gone.

The experience of having her out of the house was vital, according to Nils. And I can see why. If the caregiver comes in, and you go out, that is useful and often very good. But when you are the one to go home to an empty house, you have an adjustment to make.

At first, it’s just getting used to being able to relax. But then you realize that one day this is what life will be like. You, alone in the house. Nils said that having his wife in adult day services was vital to his transition after her death. He felt strongly enough about that to call and chat with me. And I thank him.

My attitude is that much of the most useful information comes from caregivers who have trudged the caregiving path. That feeling is what inspired me to write about my experiences that lasted over two decades and included seven elders. That feeling is what inspired me to interview other caregivers for a book. Caregivers need professionals in all related fields. But

they need each other just as much.

Only a caregiver who has traveled the journey could have come up with the advice Nils gave me. “Tell your readers that they will find the transition easier if they get used to coming home to an empty house before the time arrives and that that is all they have.”

Bursack is the author of “Minding Our Elders,” a support book on family elder care, and maintains a Web site at www.mindingourelders.com. To view past columns, go to www.inforum.com and click on columnists. Readers can reach Bursack at carol@mindingourelders.com or write her at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107