Blaine residents attend adult day health center to rehabilitate, live longer

By Sarah Sharp

The Northwest Adult Day Health and Wellness Center’s longest-standing member of 16 years might just be the best reflection of their ultimate goal: to keep people living at home for as long as possible.

The Lynden wellness center offers a comprehensive health program for adults who benefit from memory care, occupational therapy, an on-site nurse and social activities that preserve cognitive ability.

“It’s great for people who are not nursing home material but they’re stranded at home,” said Sue Cushman, whose husband, Jeff Cushman, attends the center.

SeniorsHealthWordsC1607_M_150_C_YIt turns out once people join community-based adult day health programs, they’re more likely to delay nursing home placement, according to a 2007 report by Health Management Associates.

Unlike assisted living, adult day health care allows loved ones to avoid isolation during the day while caregivers may be at work – yet they still retain the ability to live at home.

For Blaine local Jeff Cushman, the center provides a means to socialize and stay physically active. After enduring a series of strokes, Cushman found his movement hindered, and legal issues prevented his caregivers from driving him anywhere other than doctor’s appointments.

Now, he starts out his day sipping coffee among friends and participating in group social activities. The staff customizes Cushman’s meals to fit his dietary needs and works on rehabilitating the parts of his body that were affected by the strokes.

He also utilizes the center’s free transportation from the Blaine Senior Center. The 12-passenger bus runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Jeff and Sue Cushman have been more than pleased with the service.

“The bus drivers are also absolutely exceptional people,” Sue Cushman said. “I was watching people get on at the senior center, and there’s one man with severe dementia, and the bus driver came up and said, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ He was chatting with everyone as they got on the bus.”

Once members arrive at the center, they’re greeted with a dining room, outdoor pavilion and exercise and activity rooms teeming with life, as 40 or more center-goers engage with the staff and each other. They can take their pick from myriad activities, including coffee socials, cognitive skill groups called “brain joggers,” water coloring on Wednesdays, Bible studies, exercise and occupational therapy.

Caregivers’ concerns over bringing their loved ones to the center often stem from a fear that health care will not available, said registered nurse Aleen Warren. But that’s a misconception she said she can allay. Warren ensures the health and well-being of each member, handling everything from giving insulin to providing emergency care. The “continuity of care,” as she calls it, proves to be more preventive than reactionary. With a background in family practice, Warren sees herself as a liaison between the center and the individual’s doctor, as well as their family members.

“The employees they have are so good at what they do,” Sue Cushman said. “They’re so social – they know how to draw people out of their shells. They’re great.”

The center values not only the health of its members, but also of their caregivers. Nearly half of all caregivers in the United States are over the age of 50, and a third describe their health as fair to poor, according to the Administration on Aging.

Every second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, the center offers a community family caregiver support group, in which caregivers share and encourage each other and guest speakers deliver lectures to support the community. The group meets from 2 to 4 p.m. at the center. Care for enrolled family members is free during this time.

For more information on enrolling in Northwest Adult Day Health and Wellness Center, call Kevyn Avery at 360/306-3031 or visit the center at 851 Aaron Drive, Lynden.

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