Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Tom and Lisa Graham

Adult Day Center aids in caregiver’s fight

Added on Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tom and Lisa Graham are in the fight of their lives.

Sadly, Tom no longer has the mental capacity to realize this. In August 2012, the 47-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury at the wedding reception of his niece. A groomsman punched Tom in the face and knocked him unconscious. Tom spent weeks on life support.

It’s unlikely that Tom will ever be the same again. Although he can walk, talk and eat on his own, he suffers from cognitive limitations that affect his memory, judgment and perception, preventing him from doing things like driving a car or balancing a checkbook.

“I still have Tom here, but it’s not Tom,” Lisa said, fighting back tears.

Ever since Tom’s injury, Lisa’s life has been an epic financial struggle to keep her husband out of any “home” other than their own. They’re currently renting a room from a relative.

“I have to keep Tom with me – I’m so scared to think of him ever being without me,” said Lisa, who’s been with Tom ever since she was 15 years old.

Between Lisa’s full-time job as a restaurant hostess and Tom’s federal disability income of $700 per month, Lisa has fought ferociously to keep Tom in her care. Throughout her battle, the biggest obstacle has been finding somebody to watch Tom while she works, since he requires 24-hour supervision.

That problem was solved the moment Lisa walked into The Salvation Army Adult Day Center in Maplewood, where Tom receives care every Monday, Thursday and Friday.

Body + Mind

Adult Day Center staff provide care to adultsThe Adult Day Center is a blessing to caregivers and their loved ones, providing affordable, quality care for up to 40 guests every weekday. Many participants are seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s, while younger guests typically have a traumatic brain injury. Adults ages 18 and older are welcome.

“You can’t even imagine how happy I am because of this place,” Lisa said. “The Salvation Army is a godsend.”

The center’s 10 employees strive to restore guests’ quality of life, self-respect and dignity through programming that stimulates the body and mind.

“There’s always a choice of two or more activities going on simultaneously throughout the day to allow people to make their own choices,” said program director Andrea Raths, a registered nurse and geriatric specialist. “The opportunity to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is something older adults and adults with disabilities often lose the privilege of doing. We strive to restore their quality of life.”

Lisa and Tom can vouch for that.

“The first day I picked up Tom (from the center), he said, ‘Lisa! I have friends!’” Lisa recalled. “You don’t know how much of an impact that has. Some of our family members treat Tom like he’s a baby, like he doesn’t know anything. But he told me that (at the center) they treat him like an adult.”

An adult, and something else.

“They treat me like gold here,” Tom said.

Woman getting salon treatment at Adult Day CenterThere’s never a dull moment at the center. Staff members are highly creative in coming up with fun themes, activities and games, such as bocce ball, Wii ping-pong and pet therapy. Weekly worship services and Bible studies are also offered, plus a beauty salon and regularly scheduled outings.

The staff does just as much to help caregivers directly.

“We try to educate them and make sure they’re also caring for themselves,” Andrea said. “Sometimes they forget to do that – I can’t count the number of caregivers who’ve passed away before the person they’re caring for does.”

Breaking barriers, not banks

The center is universally affordable, charging a daily fee with a sliding scale to accommodate caregivers’ financial needs.

Adult Day Center program director Andrea RathsFor people like Lisa, financial leeway is essential. She’s in the process of applying for government assistance that would cover most of the costs. Meanwhile, she’s paying what she can – with donations to The Salvation Army making up for the rest.

“I could never tell Tom he can’t go (to the center) anymore,” Lisa said. “He feels like he has a purpose now.”

Although the Adult Day Center is usually filled to capacity, as of May 2014, there will be 10 to 12 new openings.

“Caregivers are welcomed to stop by for a tour – it doesn’t cost anything to look,” Andrea said. “Next is a free one-day trial. After that, people are always hooked.”

Learn more about the Adult Day Center by calling 651-779-9858.