Monday, July 15, 2019
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
DAVIE | Three years ago, William Rojas, a parishioner at All Saints in Sunrise, faced what he considered perhaps the greatest challenge of his life when his 82-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s came from Colombia to live with him.
“When she came here, she was lost,” said Rojas. “She didn’t know how to speak English. She didn’t know how to socialize with people. I work, and she can’t be left alone by herself.”
Rojas was in a dilemma, but he felt called as a son to take care of his vulnerable mother, who had cared for him as a child. He wanted to keep an eye on her in his home as she adjusted to American life and as her incurable illness continued to develop. He didn’t want to place her in a nursing home among strangers, where she might become more lost and isolated.
Rojas turned to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami for help, and the charity welcomed both him and Ruth Vidal, now celebrating her 85th birthday. “I was looking for a place where she would be safe,” he said. “I was looking for a place where she could adapt to her situation. I see a big change in her. She has gone back to talking and socializing.”
Catholic Charities Centro Oeste, where Vidal spends her days, is Broward County’s first Hispanic adult day care center, celebrating 15 years of service to the community and families. Tucked away in a small shopping mall at 6915 Stirling Road in Davie, across the street from St. Bernadette Church and School, the center offers programs in Spanish. Next door is Central West Adult Day Care Center, also directed by Catholic Charities. Wilton Manors Adult Day Care Center, located at 1503 N.E. 26 St. in Wilton Manors, is the charity’s third licensed adult day care facility.
The centers, which currently have openings, provide mental and physical stimulation for seniors, allowing them to spend time with people their own age, talk, interact and enjoy activities in a safe, nurturing environment.
Iani Carvalho is regional director of elderly services for Catholic Charities. She said that 70 percent of the centers’ clients are over the age of 80, but the centers are designed for all adults and seniors regardless of age, income or situation. Many of the clients are frail, some have cognitive challenges and others have physical restrictions and need assistance.
The three centers open at 7:30 a.m. and have certified nursing professionals on duty. They keep an eye on clients and monitor their blood pressure, weight and health conditions, making sure they take any required medications. The nurse is also there for caregivers, to answer any questions they may have about their loved one.
Breakfast, lunch and a snack are provided at the centers through the Meals on Wheels South Florida program. The menus are planned by dietitians and aimed at offering a healthy, nutritious meal. Activities are scheduled after breakfast to keep everyone active, moving and involved. The day ends with a social hour at 3 p.m. and doors close at 5 p.m.
The day the Florida Catholic visited, over 40 people were participating at Centro Oeste, and about 15 clients were at Central West next door. Both groups were lively and active. A small group of women were busy with arts and crafts, making decorations for a Mother’s Day program. A large group of men and women sat in chairs while Ivon Suarez, an activity aide, read the news headlines. Discussions followed with people chiming in with their reactions to current events. One group in a circle was busy playing cards and another group of men and women matched skills in a game of dominoes.
“This is a very good place,” said Clara Chavarri as she dropped off her mother, Maria Soto, 94, at Centro Oeste. “She can’t be left alone. This center is safe. My mother has made friends. It is really a good place for her.”
The centers provide a newsletter for clients and their caregivers, educational programs and resource materials addressing any needs and services.
“We are also serving the caregivers, so they can work,” said Carvalho, referring to an important aspect of the program. The centers also provide respite care to give a break to people caring for others, a rewarding but challenging job that can lead to stress and health issues.
Sally Moore is the former executive director of a national non-profit, Caregivers’ Anchor of Hope, who currently resides in Palm Beach County. She is a former caregiver who provided care for her mother and her husband, both afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
“It is a 24-hour job,” she said. “Some caregivers have little support from family and friends, and they become hopeless.”
“Sometimes we see them struggling,” said Carvalho. “We provide the caregiver with a lot of guidance and the information that they need.”
According to statistics provided by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 40 million Americans provide unpaid help to loved ones. These numbers are expected to increase in coming years. The association also reports that 10,000 people a day turn 65.
Catholic Charities first brought day care for seniors to Broward in 1975, developing a unique model to support clients and their caregivers.
Brent Brady cares for his best friend, Delia Gonzalez, 88, a native of Puerto Rico. He found Centro Oeste three years ago. “If this program did not exist, I would not be able to provide for her, and I would have to put her in a home,” he said. “I work. The people here take good care of the seniors. It is a really a good program.”
FIND OUT MORE
- For information about Catholic Charities adult day care centers, which are funded by grants from federal and local county agencies, contact Iani Carvalho, regional director, Elderly Services of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, at 786-506-1775 or visit www.ccadm.org.