SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia diseases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Currently many people living with the disease are cared for by family members at home. The Alzheimer’s Association says over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people living with dementia.
That’s why Active Generations wants to help both those living with the disease and caregivers alike.
For years now, Active Generations has been promoting positive aging for adults. One way they do that is with their Day Break Adult Services. Through small group activities, exercise, therapies and more the services help people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
“A place where they can come and be a part of community and socialize, engage in activities and find new things that they may want to do,” Molly Keegan, director of adult day services, said.
However, 10 years ago they began to realize that not everyone living with dementia responded well to this type of program.
“Sometimes our participants can become overstimulated in those larger settings where we do have up to 30 or more individuals on site,” Berkeley Stancer, adult day service program manager, said.
That was true for participants like Anne Butz who began using the Day Break service last year.
“As Anne’s Alzheimer’s advanced, there was just a little too many people here and I got a phone call one morning that she just wasn’t comfortable there, she didn’t want to live anymore, wanted to die,” Rich Butz, Anne’s husband and caregiver, said. “And they said, ‘what do we talk to Anne about before we have you come pick her up?’ I kind of gave them some things to talk to Anne about, I mean, I’ve been through this with Anne before. And I got a call from Day Break a little later said, ‘we’re good but tomorrow Anne is going to go to Ceili Cottage, do you know what Ceili Cottage is.”
Ceili Cottage, which was created in 2012, is an adult day service that focuses on smaller groups of up to nine people.
“So we created a program that’s in a little home, we wanted it to feel like going to someone’s house, a friend’s house,” Keegan said.
“We really focus on art, we focus on reminiscing, we focus on a lot of physical stimulation and just conversing,” Stancer said. “I think that’s one of our biggest, out of all of our programs, is just, like I shared earlier, really getting to know who they are.”
Rich Butz says Ceili Cottage has really helped his wife.
“Yeah to see a smile on her face and to be able to laugh and smile with your loved one as you walk the path of Alzheimer’s, it’s the greatest mental health experience possible,” Rich Butz said.
But Ceili Cottage and all of the adult services at Active Generations are helpful to caregivers like Rich Butz as well.
“For someone like myself who is a caregiver, it just, you know, it allows you to take a breath,” Rich Butz said. “It makes you feel like this is good, you’re doing the right thing for your spouse or your father, mother, your loved one, whomever it is.”
“Allowing caregivers to be able to care for their loved one longer and in a more patient, easier way,” Keegan said. “You know, looking forward to that break, knowing there’s going to be a break can make some of those really harder times a little easier to get through.”
Now Active Generations wants to expand that help to people outside of Sioux Falls.
“This past year we worked closely with the South Dakota Alzheimer’s Association, really advocating for an adult day services expansion bill, which was passed,” Keegan said. “And we were recipients of grant dollars to be able to expand the Cottage in Sioux Falls and then also look to expand outside of Sioux Falls. Where we can provide adult day in communities where there are no options, where nursing homes are closing, where caregivers aren’t getting a break.”
An option Rich Butz is glad he took and one he hopes everyone can have access to.
“To have a service like this, to have it available, you need to take advantage of it. You’re going to feel good about where your loved one is going and it’s going to improve your own health,” Rich Butz said.
In 2020, Active Generations also opened up an all men’s day break program.
Since the non-profit is connected with the state of South Dakota, United Way and the V-A, Keegan says they are able to accept donations and they do not charge for their services.