ST PAUL, Minn. — At a table filled with colorful strips of paper, friends chat and laugh as they manipulate their materials into a work of art.
The paper will soon form paper mats, just as the people present have interwoven their own fabric of community.
“We saw this as a really important step in being able to further support those caregivers,” said Jon Lundberg, president and CEO of Ebenezer.
Lundberg is referring to Ebenezer DayBreak, a senior day program located at the Fairview Community Health and Wellness Hub. The center, which just opened this spring and is actively looking to register new participants and families, hopes to transform what could be an otherwise isolating journey related to Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
The staff is doing that, they say, by offering a rare combination when it comes to senior care: a downtown location with a health “hub” that can serve the whole family, and, compassionate care.
“By being here, it is positioned to be able to take advantage of the other core services that are present here in the hub. So that becomes an additional wraparound, if you will, to the clients that are served,” Lundberg said, noting that the hub includes pharmacy, mental health and primary care services.
“We know clearly that community caregivers struggle with having a variety of different kinds of supports and services, so the more we can do that helps sustain them and enable them to continue to be caregivers in the community, that’s just really important and critical,” he also stated.
And as for why Ebenezer – a subsidiary of Fairview that has more than 100 senior living and care communities throughout the greater Twin Cities and beyond – would support a program that promotes a safe option for keeping seniors in their own homes, Lundberg says it’s a compassionate acknowledgment of our demographic reality.
“Certainly, much of what we do is centered around or built around bricks and mortar, if you will. But we all know as the aging demographic continues to grow, we can’t build enough bricks and mortar. And we have to look at a host of different ways of being able to meet the needs of that growing population,” he said.
One family’s choice
Sitting on what has been dubbed “her chair,” 78-year-old Elaine quickly reflects on her favorite part of coming to what she calls the “senior center.”
“The favorite is [she pauses for a bit]… my people. Being with my people,” she said.
And there’s no question Elaine – a devoted mother and grandmother – has found her people. The avid gardener who also loves birding and being with family basks in the attention and care provided by the program leaders.
“One more time, I think you’re doing really well,” said Tiffany Jones, DayBreak’s program director, while helping Elaine with her art project.
The program overall features "field trips," art and cooking projects, gardening and music programs.
And that care also provides peace of mind for Elaine’s daughter, LaVonne Sicard, who is able to work full-time without worrying about her mom’s safety.
“It’s allowed my mom to stay home with us and stay in the home with us. She loves coming here,” LaVonne said about their decision to enroll in the program – and even increase to five days a week – following Elaine’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis last year.
“I say that this place has been life-changing for us,” she said, adding, “The staff here, I tell them every day that they’re my angels.”
“It puts a smile on her face, and so then I get to have a smile on my face,” LaVonne continued.
And indeed, it’s with a smile that Elaine emphasizes her feelings about the program: “Yes, yes, I love it here… We have our people. That’s all I can say is, it’s our people.”
For more information
“People are learning about us and we’re learning about them and the community hub that we’re developing here,” Tiffany Jones emphasized about the program she’s overseeing.
The program is still in the early stages of enrolling clients, but they believe they’ll be able to accommodate 50 or 60 families in total, given they can serve up to 18 people every day (and not every family chooses to participate every day). Leaders further note the program is cost-effective: $105 a day and qualifies for Medicaid, alternative care grants and veteran resources.
Those interested in learning more about the Ebenzer DayBreak program at the Fairview Community Health and Wellness Hub can simply click here.
Full disclosure: Karla Hult herself remains an advocate for those on the Alzheimer’s journey after losing her own dad to the cruel disease in 2019. Hult also started So Many Goodbyes as a resource for others on this difficult journey on Father’s Day 2021.
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