Active against dementia: CNS supports local program

  • Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2020, 12:26 pm

Keystone Activity Tote
Due to support from the CNS Community Investment Fund, Keystone can still provide for their participants at home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5 million adults in the United States, at least 65 years old, suffer from dementia. In spite of its life-altering affects, the Keystone Adult Day Program is active against the disease. For 32 years, the program has dedicated itself to provide support for caregivers and individuals living with dementia. While there isn’t a cure for dementia, maintaining social connection and activity has been found to reduce the symptoms and isolation felt by the disease.

One of the core missions of the program is to provide purposeful and meaningful activities and engagement for those living with dementia. Based on the Y-12 Community Investment Fund’s contribution of $3,000, the program was able to deliver their mission, help fund activities, and impact its individuals before and during COVID-19.

“Pre-pandemic, we utilized grant funds for a variety of activities which routinely encompass a participant’s day at Keystone,” said Phyllis Spangler, executive director of Keystone Adult Day Program. “Engaging participants in a full range of activities drives our daily schedule. From the moment the first participant arrives until the last participant has departed, activities are generated and sustained. This engagement helps decrease anxiety and agitation and helps promote a sense of wellbeing and security. Additionally, when participants return home after a full, active day, they are tired and routinely sleep better, which is significantly helpful for their caregivers.”

Before the pandemic, in-person activities for the participants ranged from cooking projects, arts and crafts, weekly music therapy, visits with dogs through the University of Tennessee’s Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee program, seated exercise, games, music, singing, and hosting special programs for individuals in the Oak Ridge community. As a part of the special programs, Y-12’s Day of Volunteering event partnered with Keystone in October 2018 and gave employees the chance to meet participants and experience the program in a Hawaiian-themed event.

“We played games, painted, and enjoyed the party,” said Ashley Harris, Y-12 Communications. “The smiles on the participants’ faces were priceless. I know the Y-12 volunteers enjoyed the day just as much as the participants did, it felt very much like a family.”

However, as events postponed and facilities closed around the nation in precaution of COVID-19, Keystone was also forced to restructure their community and concerns.

“Once we closed our door in mid-March, our primary concern was the wellbeing of those we serve, given their pursuant isolation,” said Anne Leitnaker, administrative assistant at Keystone. “The task of caring for someone living with dementia is a 24/7 proposition. Our caregivers were suddenly without the relief our program provided and our participants found themselves without the social connection, engagement, meaning, and purpose that being a part of the Keystone community offered.”

With a need and drive to sustain the Keystone community’s activities and keep safety measures in place, Keystone’s staff used their creativity to package at-home activity totes. Keystone activity director, Alex Sands, worked with staff to generate ideas for the totes and carefully customized items in the kit for each participant’s level of functioning and interests. Each activity is individually bagged and includes supplies and instructions to make it easy for both the participant and caregiver.

“We are dedicated to preserving the lifeline we extend to those we serve and to remain in relationship with them. We are also developing ways to connect virtually with our population and will be using activities in that venue as well,” Spangler said.

As a resource, the Keystone Adult Day Program is also able to offer subject matter expertise on dementia and reach beyond their walls. In support of the local community, Keystone will begin offering generic totes to provide for the local population living with dementia.

“We want our participants and caregivers to know how much we care for them and long for the day when we can reopen our doors and welcome them back. Maintaining this connection is vital to the future of our program,” Leitnaker said.

By working with the East Tennessee Foundation, the Y-12 Community Investment Fund has provided opportunities for employees to award grants benefiting nonprofit organizations like the Keystone Adult Day Program in its 20-county service area.

Y-12 employee, Ashley Harris
Y-12 employee, Ashley Harris, volunteers at the Keystone Adult Day Program on the 2018 Day of Volunteering. (Photo taken before the COVID‑19 pandemic.)
Keystone Adult Day program participants
Keystone Adult Day program participants enjoying the Hawaiian-themed event on the 2018 Y-12 Day of Volunteering. (Photo taken before the COVID‑19 pandemic.)
Care companion, Sharon McFadden, and activity director Alex Sands
Care companion, Sharon McFadden, and activity director Alex Sands work on the contents of the bags for the at-home packages.
Keystone executive director, Phyllis Spangler
Keystone executive director, Phyllis Spangler, gives a Keystone Activity tote to participant, Rob, while his wife Lynne looks on.