If you walk into the spacious common room of the remodeled house just south of Clermont Park Life Plan Community, chances are you’d find eight to ten older adults crafting homemade volcanoes, learning about the Titanic’s construction design and passenger class system or animatedly discussing the history and contributions of the Navajo people.
Clermont Park’s Adult Day Club is not your normal memory support service. It’s anything but average, and according to Courtney Todd (who you’d likely discover sitting somewhere near the middle of the table), that’s precisely what it should be. As Clermont’s Adult Day Coordinator, Courtney has a unique pulse on the challenges and opportunities of Denverites and their families experiencing dementia. Sitting in her office at Clermont’s Adult Day Club this past month, she shared key insight on how adult day services are evolving and how the Club is offering something special and essential to our Denver community.
Question: What common misconceptions are there about offerings for those with memory loss, such as Clermont Park’s Adult Day Services?
Courtney’s Answer: I think it is a common assumption that all adult day services are like day care — that people are here to just be safe, and it is a less-than-ideal option for times when caregiver(s) are unable to be with them. Our Club provides far more than a safe environment. It is an upscale “country club” retreat where members get the opportunity to make new connections, explore and enjoy life anew while their family can also rest to provide them even better care. Although we call ourselves a club, we are inclusive and welcome all older adults with dementia.
We offer a variety of opportunities for the growth of all our club members including science classes, pet therapy, music, socialization, spiritual growth and so much more. We also help our members explore the larger community at Clermont Park and participate in the larger community’s programs and outings. Our members and their families are really excited to be part of the Club.
Q: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer’s by 2050, and every 65 seconds someone develops the disease. How do Clermont Park’s Adult Day Services, including the Club, help address this increasing need in our Denver area?
A: Here in Denver not only are there more people living with the disease, but an increasing number are being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at a younger age — often in their early 60s. As this happens, it is generally expected that adult children will eventually care for an aging parent. However, most adult children don’t expect to be doing it while they still have kids at home or a career in full swing. Many of these family care providers are overwhelmed with how to balance their families, careers and learning how to care for their loved one.
Q: Finding out that you or a loved one has memory loss is a difficult situation. What are the top two suggestions you’d make to someone diagnosed with memory loss and their family members?
A: I would recommend reaching out to organizations that offer education and resources, like the Alzheimer’s Association. Also, make sure that you have time to care for yourself. That is where Clermont’s Adult Day Services can be so helpful. The Club provides opportunities for socialization, learning and fun for your loved one, and it gives you and other family members peace of mind to take some time for yourself or get things done that have fallen by the wayside. Feelings of guilt are common for caregivers, so our staff also provides helpful suggestions for navigating these feelings, creating a healthy life balance and recognizing when you are providing the best care with the resources you have.
Q: How/why did you grow into your current role with Clermont Park’s Adult Day Services?
A: My Grandpa Jack had Alzheimer’s, and my Granny Jane lived to be 102 without any memory issues. Seeing that difference in my own family impacted how I saw the aging process. Both of my grandparents were active in their communities and had interests outside of their home and marriage; I always loved that about them. I want to help support people in continuing to lead similarly fulfilled and happy lives no matter what stage they are in their journey.
Q: Memory loss is commonly associated with losing the ability to learn. Have you found this to be true in your experience?
A: Not at all. I think there’s a perception that having memory loss is the end of a fulfilled life. Here at the Club we work to shatter those misconceptions. The way someone learns may change due to a cognitive challenge, but that just means we need to help them find a different way to absorb the information.
Q: How do you see those with memory loss continuing to interact with their community?
A: As people grow older, many fear that dementia or Alzheimer’s will diminish how they are seen in the eyes of others—that they will no longer be who they once were. Many are concerned that they will be perceived as crazy or less than others without the disease. Our goal is to continue changing these misperceptions. We aim to reach higher and dig deeper to provide these essential members of our Denver community with opportunities for growth and purpose—to be examples of what is possible to others at Clermont and the greater Denver area in general.
This story first appeared in Denver Post's YourHub. Copyright and used by permission.