Aging Well: Adult day programs offer ‘good day’ opportunities |

Aging Well: Adult day programs offer ‘good day’ opportunities

Tamera Manzanares

Living with Alzheimer's disease often means living with confusion, fear, frustration and uncertainty.

But there are good days, too — days when illness takes a back seat to activities and simple pleasures that help restore a person's sense of self-worth.

"If you're having a good day and you're happy, whether or not you remember that a day later, the feeling is still there," said Karen Burley, director of adult day programs for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

Adult day programs provide older adults with dementia and other chronic conditions a comfortable and safe place to enjoy hobbies, exercise, social activities and almost anything else that catches their interest.

Operated by the VNA's Aging Well division, an adult day program is open and available at The Haven in Hayden and another will be opening soon at the Rollingstone Respite House in Steamboat Springs.

Adult day programs can be a win-win situation: Participants receive much-needed stimulation and socialization outside the home while caregivers take a breath and fulfill other responsibilities.

Recommended Stories For You

The overall goal is that everyone is happier, healthier and, ultimately, the older individual is able to remain at home longer.

"I think it helps them develop more of a sense

of independence," Burley said. "When you're happier, you take that back to your living situation."

How it works

Warm colors, artwork, plush sofas, a dining area, cozy nooks and walking paths are just a few elements that make the Aging Well Adult Day Program at Rollingstone a home away from home.

Within these comforts, participants engage in activities geared toward their particular likes — an entire page of the application, in fact, is dedicated to learning about the person's interests.

Visits from musicians and therapy animals, hands on music and art, tea time, games, gentle exercise and conversation are among the many possibilities.

Caregivers can drop off their parent, spouse or loved one for half or full days. Participants may follow a weekly schedule or come when it is convenient. Rather than being cooped up in a condo, for example, an older adult visiting Steamboat might attend the adult day program at Rollingstone while their family hits the slopes.

Families can rest assured their loved ones are comfortable and safe. Participants enjoy meals and attention from Certified Nursing Assistants who help them with daily needs and monitor their blood pressure, weight and other vital signs.

Daily fees for the adult day program at The Haven are $68. Fees at Rollingstone have not been set but likely will be a bit more expensive because of different staff and service availability, Burley said.

The Haven program accepts Medicaid. The process to certify the adult day program at Rollingstone won't be long because it essentially is the same program.

Other resources, such as Northwest Colorado Options for Longterm Care, also are available to help caregivers with adult day and other costs.

Burley wants to make sure the adult day program at Rollingstone meets residents' needs. She encourages anyone who is interested or who has questions to contact her at 875-1888.

Good days

Alzheimer's disease is the most common of type of dementia, a medical term indicating a change in thinking ability that can include memory loss or changes in a person's judgment, reasoning or language.

Emmalie Conner, director of the northern Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, explains that dementia-related confusion can lead to fear, which often leads to agitation or aggression.

Lack of stimulation or over-stimulation can exacerbate these behaviors making a person feel overwhelmed or lost as to what they should be doing, she said.

Contented involvement or activities structured to a person's ability have been shown to lessen anxiety and stress in these individuals.

Adult day programs help in this aspect and also provide participants opportunities to socialize with people other than their primary caregiver or "anchor."

"The worst thing you can do with a person with dementia is have the caregiver be their sole anchor," Conner said. "What if something happens to the caregiver?"

"Plan B should include being with other people, and adult day is a wonderful way to accomplish that."

Although the transition to adult day can be difficult at first, caregivers shouldn't give up.

"Caregivers need to not be afraid to try it," Conner said. "For the most part, they will be pleasantly surprised that it will offer a place of contented involvement and a happy place for the person with dementia."

Participant benefits

Adult day program benefits extend to individuals coping with many types of chronic conditions and age-related challenges.

Sandy Beran's father has been attending the adult day program at The Haven one day a week since last summer.

Though hesitant at first, her father, who is 82, now looks forward to his day at the program, where he discusses current events with the staff, takes walks and participates in activities at Aging Well Wellness Day at the Haven Community Center.

Caregiving staff also found a way to help her father, who is losing his vision, to work on his memoirs by recording conversations about his life with a tape recorder.

"That was our goal — that it would be meaningful activity," Beran said. "The aids and attendants bend over backwards to help him do what he wants to do."

Having the opportunity to get out of the house and socialize with people other than his daughter and family also has been important.

Time with "his girls" (adult day staff) has helped make him more confident and talkative at home and improves the overall time he spends with his family.

"It's put a spring in his step, which is fun to see," Beran said.

— Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at tmanzanares Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit or call 871-7606.

Adult Day Programs

The Aging Well Adult Day Program at the Rollingstone Respite House will be opening in January. Caregivers, support groups (including religious organizations) and anyone else with questions or input about adult day programs at Rollingstone or The Haven are encouraged to call program director Karen Burley at 875-1888.


The Caregiver Support Program, operated through the Northwest Colorado Options for Longterm Care, provides financial help for adult day programs. For more information, call Nancy McStay at 824-5646 or, to request an application, call 877-963-8731.

For information or support related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at or call their 24-hour helpline, 1-800-272-3900.

Go back to article