Family caregivers get a break

St Camillus Front Circle

St Camillus Front CircleSocial day program for adults to begin at the Centers at St. Camillus

By Pat Shea
Sun associate editor
Ryann Zeiner, RN, director of the newly established day program for adults with neurological impairments at the Centers at St. Camillus in Syracuse, can’t wait for April 15: it’s the opening day of the social day program for adults 18 years and older suffering from a stoke, delayed cognitive abilities, traumatic brain injury (TBI) or chronic illnesses such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers will now have the ability to drop off family members suffering from a multitude of health concerns to a local, supervised medical care facility for either a half-day or full-day program. The program will be offered Monday through Friday from
7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

   “This social day program offers caregivers a new alternative to leaving brain injured family members, or those suffering from chronic illness, at home unsupervised,” explained Zeiner.


   “Caregivers often need to go out to a full-time job in addition to taking care of the injured family member, but our area doesn’t have any day program options,” stated Zeiner. “This social day program was developed to fill a need that was growing within our community and offer a multitude of services for the participant. We want to keep people in our area independent and active, as well as safe. Our program provides constant supervision so that participants can’t just get up and wander away, and also gives them something to do besides watching television.”

What to expect

   Participants in the program will find a newly renovated space that was previously a therapy gym, but now has been redesigned for the day program. Breakfast and lunch will be served daily and each day there will be specific activities coordinated by activity leader Madeline Ashwill. Ashwill will tailor programs to each individual’s physical, mental, intellectual and cognitive abilities.

   “I also have many ideas to help participants enjoy and understand cultural celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo or Fourth of July,” explained Ashwill.

   Ashwill also plans to teach participants necessary life skills that may have been forgotten since their illness or accident, such as making a bed, cleaning a room, doing laundry, cooking or balancing a checkbook.

   “Each individual will have their own comprehensive plan created with input from family members and goals listed that the participant, the caregiver or both want to see accomplished,” explained Ashwill.

   Additionally, all participants will be offered a daily opportunity to attend Catholic Mass or participate in reciting the rosary each day in the chapel garden. Participants don’t need to be Catholic to attend the day program.

   The ratio of staff to participants is something of which Zeiner is especially proud. “We currently plan for six participants to one staff member. Most day programs have eight participants to one staff member, so we really feel our program will give us a greater opportunity to get to know each participant personally and understand their specific needs,” she said.

   Zeiner’s staff consists of Ashwill, the activities leader, two aides to help with toileting and personal care and Zeiner herself.

   At present, the center has openings for 24 participants, but Zeiner and Ashwill expect those openings to fill up quickly now that the center has begun advertising the program.

   “There just isn’t another program of this type and quality in our area. We have the facilities, we offer on-site medical services and we have trained staff to give our participants the best daily experience,” stated Zeiner.

   “Too often caregivers burn out, and more and more you hear of adult children caring for their elderly parents,” she added. “These people eventually need a break, even if it’s just to go to work or to the supermarket. We offer a program that will not only offer flexibility to caregivers, but also give them peace of mind [regarding their loved ones] every day.”

   For more information on the Centers at St. Camillus social day program for participants 18 years and older with neurological impairments, contact Ryann Zeiner, RN, director of day programs, at (315) 703-0740 or visit

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