Notes from the President:
Roxy Fuentes is the activity specialist at The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Adult Day Services Center at Easterseals’ Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in Silver Spring. Every day, she comes to work ready to put smiles on the faces of our participants. The center provides personalized, daily care and a social environment to more than 60 individuals who live with some form of disability or special need. More than half have memory loss such as Alzheimer’s disease, and the memories that remain are precious to them.
For Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I want to share some insight on how Roxy and other Easterseals staff members help our participants live meaningful lives.
First, however, I’d like to provide some facts. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, almost 6 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. By 2050 this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million deaths per year. Every 65 seconds someone in America develops the disease. Currently, more than 16.1 million people provide unpaid care to someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
These numbers are staggering. As the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease explodes, cost-effective, community-based care like Easterseals Adult Day Services is critical to a functional society. Furthermore, the need to support caregivers and families in addition to providing quality care to members of our community living with dementia is only growing.
Delmy Jesus Orellana and her family are a perfect example. Ten years ago, 79-year old Delmy, who lives with her daughter and three grandchildren, was diagnosed with dementia. Stretched for time and resources with other family responsibilities, Delmy’s daughter was quickly becoming overwhelmed with work, children’s school and her mother’s care. When Delmy also became depressed, Delmy’s daughter turned to Easterseals to get support for her family.
At the Adult Day Services Center, Roxy spends her day engaging participants like Delmy with sensory activities such as art, music, cooking, puzzles, and dancing. Roxy says these activities, along with keeping participants on a predictable schedule, help them better manage their progressing memory loss. “It’s important to get to know and understand each participant as an individual because what works with one person may not work with another,” said Roxy. “I also practice a lot of patience when communicating with participants, which helps to keep them calm. For them, it can get very frustrating to forget what day it is, or how to do something, or even what they were just saying.” This is a great example of Easterseals’ core value of Respect. When you come visit you’ll see Roxy and her colleagues respecting the individual’s hopes and desires in our program.
Roxy’s calling to work with people living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other brain disorders started when she was 7 years old taking care of her grandmother, who was in her 90s. When her grandmother passed, Roxy knew she wanted to continue working with senior citizens when she got older because it fulfilled her sense of purpose. Roxy now has over 12 years of experience that she brings to our participants. She not only leads activities, but is the center’s resident Spanish translator for participants. “What I like best about working at the center is that they really invest in resources for the participants, whether it’s communicating at their level or providing resources for engagement,” Roxy says. “People with memory issues and other disabilities need a variety of activities to stay stimulated. For example, playing a simple game of Bingo or creating a painting really helps them stay connected to a world that is slowly becoming unfamiliar to them.”
Roxy says two of the most popular activities at the center are the Wii games and recently installed Smartboard. Both help get participants moving. The center also organizes music and dance sessions, yoga classes and local field trips. All these activities create an engaging, social, activity-filled environment. For Patricia Anderson, a 71-year-old grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease, coming to the Adult Day Center three times a week gives her a precious opportunity to interact with people. “When I’m at home, all I do is stare at 4 walls,” she says. “I look forward to coming to the center for the Zumba classes, arts and crafts and basically just talking to good friends.”
Today, I’m happy to report that Delmy is no longer depressed, and she keeps herself as healthy and active as possible by walking 40 laps around the center every day. And for Patricia, even though there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, Easterseals’ staff members like Roxy will continue to do everything they can to provide support to Patricia and her family and bring smiles to participants’ faces.