A Meaningful Way to Spend a Day

June 5, 2003
VOL 122 NO. 22
A Meaningful Way to Spend a Day
John Costa and Elinor Cyr work on a craft project at the St. Francis Social Adult Day Service center,
By Howie Mansfield
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Taking care of an elderly friend or relative can be draining physically and emotionally. Many caregivers spend 24 hours a day attending to the needs of an individual, with little respite for themselves. St. Francis Social Adult Day Service, a mission of the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order, provides a place for elderly to receive care during the workday, allowing caregivers a chance to catch a much-needed breath.

Sister Mary Christopher Dixon, OSF, has been administrator of St. Francis Adult Day Care for the last 13 years. Sister Mary Christopher began nine months after the facility was founded. “It’s my home away from home,” she said. Participants at St. Francis Adult Day Service are usually older than 60 and may have a physical or psychological disability. Sister Mary Christopher explained that each person is evaluated before he or she comes to the facility to ensure their proper care. All participants must be able to be moved with a wheelchair, walker or cane. The facilities are housed in two buildings on the former Maria Regina College campus. Both buildings are secure to provide protection for the participants.

Sister Mary Christopher said each day is structured with activities. Participants move from activity to activity every 45 minutes. “We don’t want them to sit around. We care about their personal well-being. We promise socialization and stimulation as well as giving them places to walk around.” Sister Mary Christopher said. “We have arts and crafts where they make gifts they can give to family members. It’s one way they build their self-esteem.” Reality orientation is another concept incorporated into the day. Sister Mary Christopher talked about a recent example of the Kentucky Derby. “We have the horses made out of wood here in this room and they are in the order they finished,” she said. “We are keeping them in touch with the world around them.”

The average day begins when the adults arrive around 8:30 a.m. and the participants have breakfast and watch CNN News. At 9:30 a.m., they take part in a scheduled project or an exercise routine. A snack follows at 10:00 a.m. and then participants are moved to arts and crafts. There is a short rest period before lunch. The afternoon schedule includes games, entertainment and featured music, additional arts and crafts time and a snack. The staff has various ways to assist those participants who have psychological disabilities. “We have a quiet area were we can take them to lie down and not disrupt the others around them,” Sister Mary Christopher said. “The staff is able to provide more one-on-one opportunities and they really get to know each of these people.”

Sister Mary Christopher said youth groups and students from local high schools and parishes visit the St. Francis Adult Day Service on a regular basis. “We have children from the Gingerbread House come and others have done community service here,” she said. “They write poems, letters, help with bingo. All the kids become very attached. It’s hard for them to leave.” During May, St. Francis Adult Day Service celebrated Older Americans Month and honored their military veterans with an open house on May 19. Sister Mary Christopher said the 22 veterans who participated in the day service were recognized during the event.

St. Francis Adult Day Service prides itself on providing the little things that make a difference and giving their participants independence and dignity. A coat check system ensures the right coat goes home with the right person and directional lines on the floors show people where to go. The day service has a hairdresser available, large bathrooms and kitchen facilities as well older style furniture that creates a sense of home. “It’s a home life atmosphere,” Sister Mary Christopher said. “We have some wonderful caregivers who bring their loved ones here. Many of them work and need to work undisturbed. Elderly caregivers can be up all night and need a time for rest. The caregivers need time to recoup too.” St. Francis Adult Day Service is under the umbrella of Franciscan Management Inc., a group affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital. “Franciscan Management provides home care services such as oxygen and medical equipment delivery. We are one part of that,” Sister Mary Christopher said.

The day service is also part of Care Connections, a collaboration of services and programs from Catholic Charities, Christopher Community, Loretto, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order. Care Connections’ programs are geared toward the elderly population, offering best health care options to them. Sister Mary Christopher said through St. Francis Adult Day Service, participants become more active in society. “We provide them the opportunity to mix and mingle with people. We keep their skills up because if you don’t use them, you loose them. We want to keep them intact socially,” she said. “It’s always a challenge for us to have meaningful activities for them. They aren’t children-type things. We use the equipment we have. We might take a large kickball and use that to improve circulation in their legs. Everything is structured for adult participation. And even if someone doesn’t want to do something at first, we don’t give up on them. We keep working with them.”

Outcomes of the program include reduced incidences of agitation, improved word association and retrieval, increased confidence, development of new skills and abilities while providing increased mobility in a safe environment. A promotional brochure states, “As an alternative in the long term care system, St. Francis Adult Day Service guides the individuals with diminishing physical, mental and/or psychological capacity to maintain optimal independence so they can remain in their own homes or with relatives.”

St. Francis Adult Day Service is a member of the New York State Adult Day Service Association. For more information, call Sister Mary Christopher at (315) 424-1003 or visit them on the Internet athttp://www.sfadc.org/

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