NORTH OGDEN -- Crystal Malmstrom took her daughter skiing last week and this week she went bowling, two activities she wouldn't have done if she was caring for her father, James Bills, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
But Malmstrom was skiing and bowling thanks to a new program being offered by Burch Creek Homecare and Hospice that offers three hours of respite care per week for Alzheimer's patients.
The program in Weber County started in November, said Paula Ledford, who oversees the program for Burch Creek. She wants to get the word out because there are only three patients being cared for at North View Senior Center, one at Roy's senior center and one at Washington Terrace's senior center and she knows the need is greater than that.
Ledford has worked with programs in Salt Lake and has seen the difference respite care can make in the lives of not only caregivers but also patients, especially in the early stages of the disease. She noticed there weren't as many programs being offered in the Ogden area and decided it was about time. She has been working with the Alzheimer's Association of Utah to get additional funding for the respite care program in Weber County.
Alzheimer's patients need one-on-one care, which is provided by volunteers from the senior companion program through Weber County. The senior companions get training to help out and some CNAs also come with Ledford when needed, she said.
When the patients are dropped off, Ledford and her team do activities by which stage of the disease they are at. Some can still play games or work on puzzles, but others they strive to keep simply comfortable and calm.
North View Senior Center Director Zella Richards said she was thrilled to have the program at the center and has seen how good it has been for the caregivers to get some time themselves.
"It's a good opportunity for them to take a little break. Sometimes they just get so overwhelmed," Richards said of the caregivers. She and the other senior center directors wanted to have the program offered in their centers, she said.
She has enjoyed watching one of the caregivers who has been bringing in his wife.
"At first he didn't really know what to do with himself. Now he is just on cloud nine after he has that time," she said with a smile.
That's the result Ledford is hoping for. She remembers caring for her grandma who suffered with Alzheimer's and the heartbreaking guilt she felt when her grandmother finally had to be put in a nursing home.
"People hate to have to do that, so if something like this can prevent that, that's what we want to do," Ledford said.
She also likes the idea of offering a little education for the caregivers and letting them know it's OK to need a break.
"They feel guilty and sometimes they get so tired they end up sick as well," she said.
She really hopes the program will grow and would for the word to get out.
The respite care is available Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the North View Senior Center, 485 E. 2550 North, North Ogden; Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Hope Community Center in Roy, 5052 S. 1900 West; and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Washington Terrace Senior Center, 275 E. 4425 South. Those interested can also call Burch Creek Homecare and Hospice at 801-452-6066.
Malmstrom said her father has enjoyed coming to the senior center for the companionship with different people. She plans to keep using the program.
"When I told him where we're going he perked right up and was excited to come," she added. "It's a really good mind stimulation thing."