Daycare: the value of social stimulation


by Judy Kirkwood

Both my mother’s and father’s health improved when they ended the isolation of taking care of themselves at home and began going to a day program that offered the social stimulation they had been missing by being so independent.

It’s something they both fought against. My dad never wanted to be in a “ghetto” of old people. What he didn’t realize was there would be younger people working in such a facility and visitors would include young relatives of people in the day program. There was plenty of variety.

My mom was in horror of going to Circle of Friends, the same daycare dad had gone to. She was so against his going that she rarely took him or picked him up. Yet, his placement gave her respite in which to catch up on sleep after being up at night looking after him to make sure he didn’t wander out the door, or to run errands.

After dad died and mom had a stroke, she could not admit that she needed watching over during the day when my sister was at work. She seemed to understand that we had run out of money for the wonderful nursing home she had enjoyed for almost 2 years but with her partial dementia thought she could go back to her own home, which had been sold to help pay for her nursing home care.
Adjusting to daycare

The first few weeks at Circle of Friends, mom said the people were “too dull.” But as time went on and she accepted she would be going every day no matter her opinions on time-wasting games like playing cards or bingo, she began to let go of her judgments of people. The staff was so friendly and caring. Mom was not so far gone as some of the other people who came and she could express her appreciation and enjoyment of those who helped her. She quickly became a favorite and was so well looked after she forgot her complaints.

What surprised us was how much her personality was affected. She went from being rather critical of people to being much more open and caring herself. She smiled and laughed often. She won people’s hearts. She seemed to accept others’ disabilities and deficits without comparing them to herself. Just in time, she came into her own.

Even if your parent, relative or friend is against going into a daycare situation, give it a try. It could make for the happy ending for which we all hope, even though it seems an unlikely outcome.