By Lauren Zaepfel
Empower will soon offer a new adult day program that aims to benefit not only its senior participants, but also those who care for them.
The Empower for Elders program, beginning Sept. 5 at 8962 Porter Road, will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and provide seniors with personal care, as well as activities to help foster a sense of independence and confidence.
Some of the activities include memory sensory games, light exercise, music therapy, cards, arts and crafts, bingo, karaoke, balloon volleyball and Wii games. Monthly birthday parties and all holidays will be celebrated, as well.
Breakfast, lunch and a light snack will also be provided throughout the day.
"I think it's going to benefit the seniors who come here, because a lot of them are isolated and don't have socialization; they just stay home all the time," said Karen Smith, director of community health programs at Empower. "This will give them socialization and will give them something to look forward to going to each day."
Smith said the program is "definitely unique" to those offered in the surrounding area, because "We're more like a home away from home. When you walk in ... it is one wide-open space. It's going to be a friendly, 'we're all one big family'-type of center. It is not institutional looking at all."
Smith explained, "A lot of the centers that provide these services, when you walk in, you feel like you're in a nursing home or a hospital. Our center looks nothing like that. When you walk in, you feel like, 'Oh my gosh, this is homey.' There's plants, there's flowers, there's wooden rocking chairs and ... antiqued side tables that will make them feel like they're in a home."
The program was also designed to help the senior participants' caregivers by giving them a break, whether it is to "go to work and not have to worry about their loved ones being at home alone, or if it's just to go and sit down and have a cup of coffee and know that they're loved one is taken care of. And if they want to close their eyes for an hour, they can," Smith said.
The program also offers a free caregiver support group.
"They can get together, meet and just talk about their feelings and meet other people that share their experience," said Elizabeth Cardamone, director of communication and development at Empower. "We've had really good luck with an autism parents support group that we have that meets here at the school. It has proven to be a very productive forum for parents with children of autism, so we're looking to do something similar with this program. We think that there's a need there and we're looking to fill it."
As part of the support group's offerings, representatives from the Western New York Alzheimer's Caregivers Partnership will present information and assistance to caregivers.
"Being a caregiver is very stressful and I think this is an ageing community," Smith said. "Niagara County is an aging community. This program will help a lot of those children who are now caring for mom and or dad to get that much- needed and much-deserved break."