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Reject the "day care" model, embrace the "club" model: Establish a new approach to "adult day services"

Employ creative engagement strategies to provide needed respite and also offer meaning, purpose, and joy to people with dementia and carers.

Photo of Susan
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

Family caregivers need high quality respite programs that can be provided by well-designed adult day services. New models of these services are needed that affirm personhood of persons with dementia and that recognize the significance of relationships, not just between those with dementia and carers, but also with others in the community. These kinds of relationships can be nurtured through various arts programs involving all users of adult day services and connecting them with community.

We only have one "adult day service" in our region and it's always full.  Over a year ago, the other one in our region closed, with no plans to reopen in a different location.  There is a huge need for this, but we need to approach it with a new model.  Too many people associate these services with child "day care" which reinforces social stigma of persons having dementia.  A "club" model would offer a safe, engaging, well-staffed environment with programs designed for persons with dementia.  These programs would at times involve care partners and would provide outreach to the community.  Two examples are possibilities for community arts programs and community service.  I am imagining a group at the "club" perhaps working with a local artist to produce some kind of artwork (or perhaps a dance program, a musical, a play); care partners would be invited to participate.  This would then be promoted to the whole community, perhaps once or twice a year.  An approach like this would give both care partners and persons with dementia an important social role in the community.  Another important social role would come from community service.  Too often, when people are diagnosed with dementia, the assumption is that they now must be "taken care of" and we forget that they still have things to offer to the community.  Service projects for other nonprofits would allow them to do this, and if care partners chose to get involved, they could do that.  They wouldn't have to be at the "club" all the time (because, after all, the "club" is supposed to provide respite for them) but could choose to participate as they wish.  We have had success at our memory cafes doing service projects for our local homeless shelter and our shelter for victims of domestic abuse.  People with dementia and their care partners need to stay connected to their communities and through the arts and service to others, they can do this.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have already done community arts programs and service projects at our memory cafes, but they are not meant to be respite, narrowly defined in terms of the care partner not being present. (Actually, they are respite, as some research has shown, because care partners can relax and enjoy themselves knowing there is no stigma attached to their loved one, and that supportive volunteers are present.) We could try this "club" idea one day a week for 6 months to see if it works.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would need help in identifying funders for a program like this, ways of marketing it to the community, knowledge about state regulations regarding respite programs, selection of an appropriate site, recruitment of staff, etc. We need research help in identifying best practices for this kind of respite care throughout the world. The one "adult day service" we have in the area (Club Gabriel, at St. Paul Elder Services, Kaukauna, WI) is a great model; we need to talk about collaboration.

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I had trouble selecting the origins of this idea because while I came up with it, I have worked closely for the past 6 years with community members to create a "dementia-friendly community" in northeast Wisconsin through the Fox Valley Memory Project. We have talked often about the need for respite


Join the conversation:

Photo of Keith Riggs

I like the social co-coping as co-creation simplicity of this idea. It could be done geographically anywhere at low cost with little infrastructure. With inputs from professionals, previous caregivers and the cared for it could potentially self-organise within local competence centres. The down side is the additional transportation and time required to bring and pick-up but also the logistics of the caregivers secondary activities when taking a break. The total system should be considered as part of the social- knowledge- time + place management and exchange potentials. Perhaps you could partner with someone who has already mapped these influences on what is a viable way of desceminating information, empathy and switching engagement partners so that caregivers get the needed break + support.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Susan,

It is great to have you in the challenge. Is this the Fox Valley Memory Project - It would be great to know more about the expertise you bring to the challenge and the expertise you need to bring this idea to fruition?

Photo of Laura Hedlund

The basic idea of "Companion Chefs" embraces the same systems thinking which is reflected in your post. How to connect the local food movements with older people needing community?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Susan,

It is great to have you in the challenge.

I look forward to seeing how your idea develops. There are a few respite ideas in the challenge that you might want to check out for inspiration/feedback - Respite Lite Respite Care Memory Camp and Companion Chefs with Local Foods 

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Susan

Kate: I tried uploading a photo from one of our memory cafes that shows what I'm imagining might happen at the Memory Club -- it just kept "grinding" and never got posted so I deleted it. I'll try again. I also just wrote to Jonathan about the Memory Camp since just a few minutes ago, I sent off a paragraph describing a camp we're organizing here in Wisconsin. I'll try the photo again. Susan

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Susan!

We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.