When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, it changes a family completely. As program director of ChristianaCare’s Evergreen Center, Brooke Groff, BSN, RN, CDP, understands that well.
The Evergreen Center, which has served families for three decades, is the only Alzheimer’s-specific adult day program in Delaware. More than 50,000 Delawareans bear the unpaid costs of caring for loved ones 24/7 facing an unforgiving dementia-related diagnosis.
“Our goals are to sustain Evergreen program participants at their highest level of functioning, reactivate previously lost skills, maintain their respect and dignity, and enhance their quality of life,” Groff said.
Families share that their loved ones seem happier on their Evergreen days, and it gives them support to catch up with the daily activities of life — cleaning, laundry, dental appointments and time with grandchildren and friends — that often fall by the wayside when a relative becomes a full-time caregiver.
“Our families tell us they wouldn’t know what do without us,” Groff said. “We become part of their family. We are their respite.”
Partners on the Alzheimer’s Journey
The Evergreen Center has a full-day model of therapy, recreation and cognitive skill-building, with stimulating activities that help participants with social skills, stress management and self-confidence. Nutritionally balanced meals and snacks provide further opportunity for socialization.
A wide variety of daily activities — dancing, exercise, crafts, parties, live music and more — allow attendees to enjoy each other’s company, reminisce about cherished memories and chat about current events. Group outings include trips to Winterthur Estate, Hagley Museum, Nemours Estate and the Dover Air Force Base.
As part of its family-centered approach, Evergreen team members update family caregivers about the day’s events and how their loved one responded at pick-up each day.
Staff also provide weekly reports, monthly nursing assessments and regularly scheduled care plan meetings with families. At monthly support group meetings, caregivers have the chance to share with and learn from others facing similar challenges.
As one family member put it, “there are people at the Evergreen Center to help make this journey a lot easier. I call them angels.”
Care with Excellence and Love
All Evergreen Center staff are oriented with 40 hours of dementia-specific training and share a professional passion for serving individuals with Alzheimer’s. Groff and many of the caregivers working at the Evergreen Center are certified dementia practitioners.
With Groff’s leadership, the Evergreen Center is helping train the next generation of dementia specialists, serving as a clinical site for University of Delaware nursing students and for resident physicians enrolled in geriatric medicine rotations.
The Evergreen Center is part of ChristianaCare HomeHealth and is supported in part by a grant from Delaware Health and Social Services. This support keeps out-of-pocket costs for families minimal, with only a voluntary contribution requested per visit.