For most of us growing older means slowing down a little, having less energy and needing a little more down time. It’s no different for adults with developmental disabilities . In fact many of these adults age earlier than the general population, experience a higher rate of dementia, and particularly if they have Down Syndrome, experience a faster progression of the disease. The Garth Homer Society long ago started to recognize that the number of aging individuals with a developmental disability was growing and that it would continue to grow rapidly over the next decade. So in 2002 the Pathways Program for seniors was started to meet the unique needs of aging clients.
Trish, Betty Ann and Noreen have been vital members of the Discovery Team for years. They enjoyed being on the go, whether volunteering, swimming or visiting pets at the pound. But recently they’ve had trouble keeping up with other team members. So they’ve moved into the Pathways Seniors’ Program. Jo Ann Slater, a facilitator in the program, says the three have truly benefitted from the move, “they are so much more relaxed and less anxious. They really appreciate the quieter atmosphere.”
The Pathways program allows clients the flexibility to be as active as their energy allows. That means creating a physical space where clients can relax quietly as well as engage in activities like cooking, playing Wii games or doing arts and crafts - at GHS that's the Pals Room.
Beyond a physical slowing down the higher incidence of dementia presents challenges. It’s not always easy to diagnose dementia in clients. One of the first clients to enter the Pathways program was stubborn, uncooperative and resistant to change. It took special training for staff about the changes in the brain that were taking place to help them realize the client was experiencing dementia which required a different approach to care. Staff stopped challenging the behaviour and instead began redirecting it in a gentle, kind way. It will always be up to staff to recognize the changes in clients because the clients don't always have the vocabulary to articulate what is happening to them.
Physical adjustments are also necessary. The environment for clients with dementia must be calm and soothing. Too many choices, too much noise, too much clutter can really impact quality of life for a client in decline with dementia. So GHS has created a special room to meet those needs— we call it the Pearls Room.
GHS has managed the increased needs posed by its aging clientele through innovative scheduling and staff adjustments. However, there is now a waiting list of clients for Pathways and that waiting list is expected to grow rapidly. Your support of GHS seniors is appreciated.