Catherine’s Day at the Center
This is Catherine, and she’s a
Participant at the Life Adult Day Center in Stillwater, OK. (Actually
Catherine is not her real name, and this is not her real picture,
because some of the things we’re going to share with you are a little
personal.) Catherine is 83 years old, and she enrolled in the program
about two years ago. Her daughter, with whom she lives, had become
concerned about Catherine’s health problems, in particular, a recent
hospitalization, failing memory, and increased balance problems when
walking. The daughter worked full-time, and she didn’t feel it was safe
for Catherine to be alone during the day. The daughter did not want to
put her in a nursing home and couldn’t afford a private home caregiver.
The Life Center provided the answer. Catherine attends the Center
daily, and she and I are going to give you a tour through a fairly
typical day not long ago.
Catherine’s day at the Center begins at
7:30 A.M. when the Center opens. Her daughter must be at work by 7:45.
Catherine, who cannot safely walk unassisted, is escorted to the kitchen
and seated at a table with two other Participants who also arrive at
7:30. Informal, friendly conversation is facilitated by staff who
understand that such conversation is an opportunity to orient Catherine
to time and place in an effort to stimulate cognitive functioning and
prevent further decline as much as possible. Catherine’s knitting is
brought to her. She has been working on it for several months.
Catherine enjoys the feelings of accomplishment and pride when people
compliment her work. She may not be aware of the good exercise
knitting provides for her arthritic fingers, nor does she realize the
good mental workout she needs and gets from using and reinforcing her
skills and simply identifying and choosing colors and patterns.
By 8:30 several others have joined the
group. Staff continue to facilitate socialization, reinforcing persons
names and sharing of current and past events. Catherine shows her
knitting to others, who comment on her progress. A younger Participant
wants to learn, and staff encourage Catherine to “teach” some basics.
Catherine’s pupil soon completes a row of knitting, boosting her
self-esteem as well as Catherine’s. Catherine is escorted to the toilet
where assistance is provided as necessary. (Catherine is still able to
manage some of her own personal care. Since maintaining independence is
a primary goal for Catherine as well as all Center Participants, staff
refrain from doing anything for Catherine that she can safely do for
At 9:00 Catherine is assisted to the
daily News Group with approximately 15 other Participants. The group
leader presents current news articles, and Catherine and the others are
encouraged to share opinions and experiences related to a variety of
topics. This day a letter to the editor expresses disapproval of women
in the work force. Catherine takes particular offense and recalls her
many years of working for the government. A male Participant seizes the
moment and with a twinkle in his eye comes to the defense of the author
of the letter. Catherine, not amused in the least, becomes visibly
upset and begins shouting at the man, who wisely begins to move away
from the finger she she’s waving very close to his nose. The alert and
experienced group leader skillfully diffuses the situation by correcting
misunderstandings, enabling Catherine to make her point, restoring the
gentleman’s dignity, and MOVING ON to another topic!
At 9:45 Catherine is assisted to another
room where she and eight others participate in Sign Singing. In this
group Catherine and others use gestures to interpret familiar songs.
Catherine’s love of music makes this one of her favorite Center
activities. Although her memory skills have decreased, she “mirrors”
the group leader’s signs to perfection. The group this day is
rehearsing for an upcoming performance for some patients at the
Stillwater Medical Center. Catherine has a flair for the dramatic and
enjoys the monthly performance outings.
At 11:00, after a stop at the bathroom,
Catherine is assisted to one of two exercise groups. Catherine joins
about 10 other Participants in a moderately intensive exercise group.
This day the group exercises to a new video led by a zany 84 year-old
fitness guru named Rosie. Catherine benefits from the seated routines
which include range of motion, aerobics, strengthening, flexibility, and
relaxation. Catherine participates enthusiastically, laughing her way
through it all.
At 11:45 Catherine is assisted to the
kitchen where she will join all of the Participants for lunch.
Catherine takes three different medications at noon. Trained staff
bring Catherine and others their meds while waiting for the meals to
arrive from Mobile Meals. The meals are prepared at the Stillwater
Medical Center and can accommodate a variety of special diets, including
Catherine’s medically-restricted one. During lunch, Catherine visits
amicably with other Participants. Staff seated near Catherine tactfully
encourage her to finish her meal. Regular weight checks at the Center
show that she has lost weight recently, and Catherine’s daughter and
physician are concerned.
After lunch Catherine is assisted to the
“living room” for an informal conversation and rest period. During this
time, Catherine knits and chats easily with staff and other
Participants. Catherine occasionally thinks it’s time to go home, and,
forgetting that she cannot walk unassisted, she starts to stand several
times. Each time, alert staff remind Catherine that she will leave
about 5:00 and engage her in conversation which refocuses her attention.
At 1:30 Catherine and seven other
Participants, complete with sun block and hats, set out for the O.S.U.
baseball field which is only two long blocks away. Catherine consents
to a wheelchair ride - a concession she’s willing to make to see her
favorite sport. Alas, the home team loses this day, but it doesn’t
dampen Catherine’s spirits. She’s a kid again eating peanuts and
crackerjacks “at the old ball game”!!
Arriving back at the Center, Catherine
relives the whole experience as she and others chat over cookies and
something cool to drink. About 4:00, Catherine joins others in a
spelling bee. She loves spelling bees as do most of the Participants.
She may not remember the day’s date or what she had for lunch, but
she’ll never need Spell Check!
At 5:00 Catherine’s daughter arrives.
Her daughter asks her what she did today. Catherine says, “Oh, not much
of anything.” Catherine doesn’t remember. Her daughter winks knowingly
at staff. Catherine waves goodbye to the others and goes home happy.
Catherine had a good day.
There were 32 other
Participants at the Life Center this particular day, each of whom was
every bit as unique as Catherine and each of whom also had a good day.