In communities across the Central East region - Scarborough, Durham and the North East cluster, LHIN-funded community based agencies provide vital services to support clients and their families.  This focus on access to community based care ensures that local residents, especially seniors, have the supports they need to live in their own homes, for as long as they desire.  The story below, submitted by the Oshawa Senior Citizen Centres, is an outstanding example of how health service providers are working together to support the Central East LHIN's Strategic Aims and providing accessible, high quality and cost-efficient care.   

Day programs help Oshawa seniors, caregivers cope

The first time her partner went to the adult day program at the Oshawa Senior Citizens Centre, Greta Cullen took a two-and-a-half hour bubble bath.

It's a small luxury, but one she hadn't indulged in for ages.

Bill -- who she describes as her soul mate -- struggles with Parkinson's disease and dementia, and requires 24-hour care.

Before he joined the day program, Ms. Cullen says it was a challenge for her to run errands, do chores around the house or just take an hour to unwind.

"I don't know what we would do without the day program," she says. "For me, it's some time to get things done and just relax a bit. For Bill, it's helped restore his dignity."

In June, Metroland Durham Region Media Group highlighted the challenges faced by caregivers as part of a special report called Situation Critical: The Crisis in Long Term Care.

The wait for a long-term care bed in Durham Region can be months -- even years -- leaving spouses and family members to provide around the clock care for loved ones with dementia, limited mobility and other challenges.

Karen Cotnam, who co-ordinates the adult day program at the John Street OSCC branch, says getting a loved one into a day program can drastically improve quality of life for both the client and caregiver.

"The caregiver has an opportunity to go to work or do errands. It doesn't have to be a 24-hour job anymore," she says. "The client gets out of the house. They get to be with their peers and try new things and have fun."

Ms. Cotnam said day programs also keep seniors in their own homes longer, and make the transition to long term care easier when the time comes, because the client is already familiar with following a structured routine.

But there is a lack of awareness when it comes to day programs. Many of Ms. Cotnam's clients say they wish they had know about the option sooner.

Another challenge is that many older adults are often reluctant to attend.

Jake Hellewell remembers how his late wife Joanne cried the first time he tried to take her to the OSCC program. He had been told by her doctor that a good day program is as helpful as medication when it comes to treating patients with Alzheimer's.

"Once she started going, she loved it. She loved singing and dancing, crafts, darts, everything," Mr. Hellewell said. "It really changed our lives."

Activities offered at the OSCC program include everything from chair exercises and yoga, to card games, darts, crafts and gardening.

There are nine adult day programs operating in Durham Region, three of which are offered by the OSCC. Clients are referred through the Central East Community Care Access Centre, which first does an assessment. Family members can refer a loved one to the CCAC themselves.

The OSCC programs run at three branches, six days a week. The cost ranges from $11 a day to $23 a day, depending on whether clients take advantage of the hot lunch served each day and transportation to and from the centre.

For more information on the OSCC programs, visit www.oscc.ca.

Reposted with permission from the Durham Metroland Group.