The key to keeping those with dementia independent

Twice a week, Access-A-Ride picks up 102-year-old Alma McLachlan from her home in an independent living facility to take her to the Adult Day program (ADP) at St Michael’s Health Centre in Lethbridge.

Alma lives with dementia, like all the clients who attend the program. Up to the age of 94, she was living independently and still driving.


Alma McLachlan and daughter Betty Poulsen spend time at the Adult Day Program

Betty Poulsen, Alma’s daughter, has seen the program benefit her mom. “It means she has a time during the week when she has people around her who care and give her opportunities to feel comfortable, okay and supported.” 

“There's dignity in who you are and in the life that you've lead,” says Betty. “When you have health issues like severe short term memory issues it's easy to think there's nothing going on but there's lots of things. They understand that here.”

Team Lead Kadie Bruce working with clients during craft time

Programing begins each weekday at 10 am, and is structured to include exercise, crafts, baking and recreational therapy. Following lunch, clients are able to rest in the TV lounge. A favourite afternoon activity includes enjoying old time musicals, such as Singing In The Rain.

Alma has been participating in the program for five years and expresses what she enjoys about her bi-weekly visits, “I enjoy the people and the exercises.”

All clients have some form of dementia and the program allows for nine participants per day. One of the goals of the program is to keep people in their own homes and independent as long as possible. The staff to client ratio is low, offering the care and attention needed by people with more severe cognitive deficits.

For the program’s Manager James Ostoya, it is very important people like Alma receive this type of care and support. “A lot of times they get forgotten. They're quiet, they're elderly. They may have cognitive decline. On the outside they look like you and me and everything is fine. You think they're living out their golden years perfectly as planned, but in truth, they may have no idea where they are; lonely, worried and scared.”

“As you get older it gets harder to know what your value is, so when there are people around you who are willing to spend time with you and talk to you one-on-one, or take the time to know that you have a thought, that has great value,” says Betty.

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