A Walk in the Park

A lot of unnerve can happen when starting a new organization. Especially when it’s your first time doing it. I have never worked for a non-profit nor have I ever owned my own business. I hold most of my confidence in caring for the elderly and specifically those with memory loss. I have been extremely blessed that at the young age of 16 I fell in love with this population and always knew that if my work involved caring for seniors I would always love what I do. After working in the senior healthcare industry for coming up on 20 years, I notice a few gaps in how we care for our seniors. One gap being a respite option that’s affordable for those caring for their loved ones. With today’s caregiver shortages and higher cost of living not everyone on a fixed income can afford the respite options available. Another gap is social and recreational stimulation for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other age related concerns.

I found a solution to helping both of these commonly seen scenarios is through an adult day program aka senior daycare. Members come together to socialize build friendships and do various activities of interest. At the same time the care provider gets a break while their loved one is at the center. I found during my time as a C.N.A /caregiver that people with memory loss more so have a need for stimulation and socialization than they do for anything medical. My social worker friend Brittany was the person who first put the idea of a Senior Day Program in my head. That was it, a spark was lit. I volunteered at a day program for 3 months to see if this was really my calling. I absolutely loved it. I loved seeing the members look forward to seeing their friends each day and try new things they might not have otherwise. I then put together my board applied for a 501c3 got my insurance and found a location that would accommodate this program.

I had a very specific timeline on how I thought things would begin and very quickly learned that everything will fall into place as it is meant to be. Trust the process I would often tell myself when there was doubt (and there was a lot of doubt). The support I have received from family and friends as well as senior health care industry professionals has been overwhelming. It has honestly gotten me through some of my biggest doubtful moments.

I had a wonderful grand opening to announce this resource to the community and even amidst the ebbs and flows of covid had a good turnout. It was humbling to see the support from my fellow colleagues and friends. A month went by with few calls then two months, then three. My doubt was at its peak. I of all people with a background in marketing know it takes time to build a network and get the word out there but it didn’t stop my doubt. I still had to remind myself to trust the process. It’s funny how things fall into place sometimes.

While scrolling through Facebook I came upon a post of someone looking for assistance with his 91 year old mom who had some memory loss. We will just call her Mrs. Dinger. Not having too much activity at the day program I responded to assist. Little did I know what I’d be getting myself into. What I mean by this is Mrs. Dinger has 12 kids and I was quickly swept up into the Dinger clan before I even knew what happened. Even though the kids are spread out throughout the states they all seem so close and I now seemed close with them too. They overwhelmed me with support, encouragement, resources and the best darn cookies. The love these kids pour out on their parents is truly refreshing. Even more surprising was the love and support the family poured out on me and my endeavors with this senior day program. They are truly an amazing family. Mrs. Dinger became the first member at Glory Days Senior Day Program. I had originally planned to only open when I had 3 members but just like my original timeline I trusted thing will fall into place as they should.

Our activities consist of making crafts, painting, sewing quilts, and a little trivia but what she enjoys the most is taking a walk in the park across the street. Our first walk Mrs. Dinger was more reserved just watching the kids and birds, the second walk we met a couple from the Midwest and had a good chat (she really enjoyed that). By the third walk she was flagging down people and initiating conversation. Mrs. Dinger liked to talks about her farm and name off all 12 of her kids. It made me feel good she was really enjoying herself. We always make sure to pet any of the puppies we come across and stop to see the kids playing on the play ground before we head back for some ice cream.

I’m not sure what happened, but after Mrs. Dinger’s first day my phone started ring daily with people inquiring about the program. Maybe she was my good luck charm; maybe it was a God thing. Maybe the support I received from the Dinger clan pushed me past my doubt and into the right direction. Whatever it was I’m happy I responded to that post. I truly believe if you are set out to do something good, good things will follow. I now have more members, less doubt. I trust everything will fall into place as it should and the rest is just a walk in the park.

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