The pandemic has been hard on people who make use of the adult day services at Ovation Communities, but staff have been working to be supportive and stay in touch.
Adult day services participants generally live at home, not at Ovation Communities. Services include intellectual and sophisticated activities; caregiver support and respite; groups for people with memory loss; and other kinds of care. Many activities take place at Ovation Communities’ Milwaukee facilities, and they often become a social outlet for participants.
“The reason the day services are so important, for a lot of the families that we are helping and supporting, is that we enable them to keep their loved ones at home and keep them as independent as possible,” said social worker Dana Rubin‑Winkelman. “It’s something that’s much more affordable than at–home care.”
In-person adult day services have been suspended during the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, adult day services connect with about 100 families, or about 200 people, offering a few hours of respite to family caregivers, memory exercises in a group setting, or other services.
The pandemic has upended that model. According to staff, families are asking: What do I do next? Where do I go? What do I do? Can I leave my loved one at home? Do I hire an at-home caregiver? Does that bring too much risk into the home?
“To keep your loved one busy one-on-one at home is extremely difficult,” said Dawn Adler, director of the Adult Day Center and “ReCharge!,” an interactive memory class.
“I see it in the support groups I do. Dawn sees it in the classes she runs. Even the most loving and dedicated families can only do so much at home. Without the services, without the camaraderie, without the socialization, without all of these things … the isolation can lead to mental health issues,” Rubin‑Winkelman said. “For some people with cognitive issues, we’ve seen their cognition really drop.”
Ovation offers virtual services
Ovation Communities, which also operates senior living centers with a commitment to Jewish life in Milwaukee, is offering various virtual services to Adult Day Program participants to mitigate against the isolating effects of the pandemic.
“Zoom is wonderful. I still feel connected to our folks in a meaningful way,” Adler said. Several groups are now meeting virtually.
“It does work. People are very happy to see one another,” Adler said. “It certainly will never be the same as everybody there, but the camaraderie is there.”
Rubin‑Winkelman has written more than two dozen “Touch Points,” which are typically a virtual letter with tips and positive thoughts. Touch Points has been expanded beyond the Adult Day Program roster to a larger Ovation list – the letters are to “offer some support and a sense of calm at this time,” she said.
“With the ongoing pandemic, life may feel a bit monotonous. Too often, we get stuck in a rut, and feel stale or bored,” Rubin‑Winkelman wrote in a Sept. 4 Touch Points letter. “So, now, more than ever, we need to discover uplifting ways to bring excitement and joy into our lives. One, fairly easy way to help, is by simply trying a new and/or unique experience.”
She also sends personal notes.
“I want them to connect with me and still feel my love,” she said. “Connection is what people need right now.”