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Families Find Support in Village Shalom Memory-Care Programs

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Life offers no guarantees. When retirees Sharon Ward and Bryce Jones met in 2005 and married in 2007 (the second marriage for both), they were looking forward to many happy, vibrant years together. Two weeks after their wedding, Bryce was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Your whole life changes – you just have a paradigm shift,” Sharon recalled wistfully. In the eight years since the diagnosis, Sharon found that becoming Bryce’s round-the-clock caregiver was more than she could handle alone. About a year ago, she contacted the Alzheimer’s Association for guidance, and they directed her to Village Shalom’s Great Days Social Club. “It saved my life,” Sharon confessed.

The day-stay program for senior adults with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses offers Bryce a welcoming social environment, mentally stimulating activities, and highly skilled and attentive caregivers throughout the day. It also gives Sharon a break from the overwhelming responsibilities of caring for Bryce at home. “I can’t say enough good things about the program,” she said. “Everyone in the whole facility is like family.”

Programs like Great Days Social Club have distinguished Village Shalom and its predecessor organizations as exceptional providers of Alzheimer’s-disease care for more than 60 years. Since 1988, the organization’s young-leadership group, the Associate Board, has organized an annual walk/run event to attract community-wide support for the expanding array of memory-care programs and services.

Now known as the Father’s Day Run, the 28th annual 5- and 10-kilometer run/walk is scheduled to take off from the Village Shalom starting line at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21. Hundreds of runners, walkers, volunteers and families are expected to turn out for the popular event.

 “The Father’s Day Run is our major focus,” said Renée Polsky Silver, Associate Board president. “It’s a great way for families to begin their Father’s Day by helping an important cause. Village Shalom’s memory-care services would not be possible without the community’s generosity, and the Associate Board is thrilled to put on an event that helps to generate awareness and support year after year.”

Village Shalom’s Day Stay Coordinator Paula Jones (no relation to Bryce), is grateful for that support. She sees its benefits every day in the faces of the Great Days Social Club participants who are in her care.

Great Days Social Club participant Bryce Jones (left) shares a laugh with Village Shalom Day Stay Coordinator Paula Jones. 

“One of our participants refers to us as The Happy Place,” she commented. “Another woman who comes to our day-stay program is turning 97 soon, and she told her daughter that she wants to celebrate her birthday with her new friends. She says this is the nicest group of people she’s ever met.

“We try to keep everyone busy and content. There’s daily exercise, both mental and physical. We have at least 13 different entertainers who come to perform for us each month. Most importantly, we have a group of experienced, well-trained staff members who do everything from developing unique programs to managing participants’ medications, if necessary.” Paula added that in some cases, the day-stay program can be viable alternative to an individual’s move to long-term care.

“We put a lot into the program,” she emphasized. “People say they’ve toured other adult day-stay programs, but Village Shalom’s is the best.”

The plan is for the Great Days Social Club – as well as Village Shalom’s memory-care programs for full-time assisted living and skill nursing residents -- to remain in that lead role. Key to that effort is the expansion of activity spaces and increased availability of art and music materials to enhance sensory experiences. Equally important is ongoing, specialized training to keep staff current on best practices in the field.

Village Shalom also recently joined forces with the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center (KU ADC) as a “community partner.” The collaboration promises opportunities for Village Shalom’s participation in KU ADC research projects that may one day lead to breakthroughs in treating and preventing Alzheimer’s.

Life offers no guarantees, as individuals and families confronting Alzheimer’s disease know all too well. But thanks to Village Shalom’s array of memory-care resources and expertise, they have a truly exceptional back-up team.