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Letter: DayAway programs help those with memory loss

To the Editor:

This photo, taken last summer, shortly before my parents celebrated 66 years of marriage, shows my nearly 93-year-old dad and my 88-year-old mother.

We all continue to love her, even though she's not the same person she was before Parkinson's Disease robbed her of nearly all of her short-term memory. Now she finishes a meal and 10 minutes later wants to know when they'll be eating. She uses a walker to get around and needs help bathing, selecting clothes and dressing.

The lady who earned a teaching degree in home economics at UW-Stout in Menomonie has forgotten how to prepare meals, do laundry and care for a home.

In years past, she taught school, raised five children, sewed our clothes, baked bread and tended a huge garden to feed us fresh food in the summer and canned and frozen food in the winter.

She was a pillar of our church and active in community and social affairs and made sure that our home was filled with books. Now she sleeps about twice as long as she is awake, but if she wakes up and Dad is not there, she is frightened and confused.

In the summer of 2006 my parents moved about 100 miles away from their farm house in Black River Falls to a senior apartment in Woodville.

Two of my sisters, who both work full time jobs and have many other responsibilities, are able to visit them nearly every day to assist with Mom's care, but Dad and my sisters lack the time, skills and occasionally the patience necessary to give Mom the mental and physical stimulation she needs. The trio of Dad and my sisters sometimes are victims of "caregiver burnout," while my older sister, who lives in California; my brother, an extremely busy farmer in Jackson County, Wisconsin; and I, a Michigan resident, feel guilty that we are not able to help more.

Here's the good news: St Croix County's Department on Aging has a marvelous program called DayAway Club that offers activities for people with memory loss. I've had the opportunity to visit the site that offers Friday sessions

The staff and volunteers are wonderful; a volunteer driver even picks Mom up and brings her home. Snacks and lunch are served, a craft project is completed, music, stories and appropriate physical activities are offered.

Dad gets a much-needed break and Mom enjoys the physical and mental stimulation along with the attention and affection.

All of this is just $45 per session, which lasts from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Speaking for a family that has investigated various options, it's a great price. Partial scholarships may be possible for families who qualify.

Now for the bad news: More participants are needed for the St. Croix County DayAway Clubs to continue.

I urge everyone who reads this to consider whether you know a caregiver who needs some respite or a loved one with memory loss who would benefit from some TLC. DayAway is a win-win solution for everyone involved.

Sessions run in Hudson on Mondays and Thursdays, in New Richmond on Tuesdays and on Fridays in Woodville.

I want to sincerely thank St. Croix County's Department on Aging for offering this program.

Call Nancy Abrahamson, the caregiver support coordinator at 800-372-2333 or 715-381-4360 to learn how this valuable and compassionate program can help you and your loved ones as it has helped my family.

Alice Cardella

Novi, Michigan