Alzheimer’s Family Day Center

Alz_FamDayCareLocated in Fairfax, Virginia, the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center (AFDC) is the only adult day health center in the Washington, DC metro area for adults with Alzheimer’s disease in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer’s and other related dementia. For those in the early stages, the Social Club meets for a half-day once a week. Founded in 1984 by visionary Dr. Lin Noyes Simon, AFDC just celebrated its 25th anniversary. As a founding director of the first and only dementia-specific day-care center in Northern Virginia, Dr. Simon turned a concept of care into a viable nonprofit business that increases the quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

Alzheimer's Family Day Center

Alzheimer's Family Day Center

Part of the mission of this organization is education. They offer training programs for caregivers and they practice and improve the skills and techniques in their programs. They also offer classes for caregivers on many aspects including medical, legal, financial, community resources, how to build coping skills.

The Alzheimer’s Family Day Center is a full care facility providing breakfast, lunch, and two snacks each day. Additionally medical services and transportation are provided. They can accommodate up to 34 participants with a 1:4 staff ratio. Fees cover 40% of their budget; fund raising and grants cover the rest. Scholarships are provided for those that cannot afford the fees. Level II care for the middle stages of Alzheimer’s and runs from $730 to $1533 per month, depending on the number of days the client attends. Level III care for late stage dementia ranges from $830 to $1743 per month.

On the day I visited, the group was actively engaged in a game. One aide was seated right outside of the restrooms ready to assist while another sat right outside of the game room also ready to assist. Another staff member was cleaning the bright dining room. It’s a very pleasant facility with an upbeat staff.

Nancy Dezan, Executive Director, said day care is not for everyone. People think that their loved ones won’t like it, but once they attend, they think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. She asked me why I thought my family never sent my father to day care. Well, they tried it, but my mother (as my father’s primary caretaker) felt it was so much work to prepare him to go out. Furthermore, they had to be ready when their transportation arrived. Nancy said this was a typical answer for many families.

To see how you can help, visit the AFDC Web site.

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Alzheimer’s Disease Educator: Nancy Dezan

Nancy Dezan at Positive Aging Fair

Nancy Dezan at Positive Aging Fair

I first heard Nancy Dezan speak about Alzheimer’s disease at the Positive Aging Fair in early fall. Her topic was “The Mind, Body & Spirit of Brain Health.” I heard her again speak on “Reducing Your Loss of Memory” at the Aging and Wellness Conference and Expo in McLean, Va, about a month later. Nancy is the dynamic Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center, the only adult day center in Northern Virginia devoted completely to the care of Alzheimer’s clients. She is an Alzheimer’s disease educator with an extensive background in Alzheimer’s and an excellent public speaker.

In her speeches, she assured us that forgetting a person’s name soon after being introduced is not a “senior” problem; it’s a problem of not concentrating. In normal aging, everything slows down; cognitive ability slows down around 40.

If you lost your keys every day, that is not necessarily a red flag. But if you don’t know what to do with the keys, that’s a red flag. Everyone with Alzheimer’s knows something is wrong and they feel vulnerable. Hence, they put keys in odd places like the freezer because they know that the keys are valuable, but since there’s no short-term memory, they can’t remember where or why they put it in the freezer.

She referred to the Nun Study which showed that nuns who were always exercising their brain fared the best, not necessarily those that were the most intelligent, because it sparked new neurons. She offered many tips on how to keep the brain healthy as well as the body. What is good for the normal person is good for one with Alzheimer’s as well. She mentioned four risk factors — blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. High levels of stress can affect the brain and it is especially important for caregivers to reach out and ask for help.

In my next post, I will introduce you to the Alzheimer’s Family Day Care Center.

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