WOODLAND PARK — Balancing the COVID-19 pandemic with natural progressions in life left some families with limited options. For children now taking care of their aging parents, the closures of adult day programs, like DayBreak in Woodland Park, forced them to find ways to change their schedules.
But now, after five long months, DayBreak is back open to families. DayBreak is a respite care program designed for the 24/7 caregiver who needs a break in their day. "It's a day out for their loved one, and a day off for the caregiver," said Executive Director and Founder of DayBreak Paula Levy.
Levy said they have had participants ranging from 60 to 99 years old. She said the majority of their clients battle things like Alzheimer's or Dementia, but they have also seen stroke survivors, Parkinson's disease, and traumatic brain injuries, among several other conditions.
On Monday, Aug. 24, the adult day program celebrated their first day back open, after their team worked on a variance request and debated that they are an essential business just like a child daycare facility. DayBreak had to open under a variety of protocols, cutting their numbers in half, barring volunteers from coming in, and no longer going on outings into the community with participants.
"We're a little nervous about it, but we also know that our families are not out gallivanting with their loved one, and I think that we're a pretty safe environment for them... They had to take temperatures of their loved one for ten days prior to our opening. When they pull in, they wait in their car, we take their temperature before they even get out of their car. If they have a fever or any symptoms, they can't come in," said Levy, who also told News5 family members are not allowed inside the building.
Other precautions taken at DayBreak include wearing masks or face shields for all employees and clients, moving around furniture inside to make it more socially distant, and a new protocol requiring the bathroom to be cleaned after every use. Plus, Levy said the local rotary club covered the funding for a deep cleaning before their reopening.
The adult day program can still do a variety of activities with their participants, like watercolor painting and exercise. Plus, they have some new activities designed around the precautions. "The afternoon activity was to bling out and decorate their face shields," said Levy.
DayBreak can normally have five participants a day but now have been reduced to around two. Levy said seven of their clients from before the closure will not be returning for various reasons.
Nancy Collins was counting down the days until Daybreak reopened. Her mom, also named Nancy, has been one of their clients for almost four years. Collins takes care of her mother full time at her home. When coronavirus closed DayBreak down, her entire schedule changed. "I can't leave her at home by herself, and we [her business] run eight to six, and I had nobody to watch her... She came with me to work, and had to sit there, and keep her entertained, and fed her, and she'd go on errands with me until we could find somebody that was able to stay up there with her," said Collins.
Collins said she did notice what she called deficits within her mother, after not coming to DayBreak for months. She did say her mother remembered the people at Daybreak when she returned. "If they didn't open back up again, it was getting close to, you know, I'd have to start looking at assisted living," said Collins.
Levy said the isolation due to the pandemic takes a toll on the senior population. "They create community, they help each other, they look forward to talking to each other, and to not have that for five months is devastating," said Levy.
Levy said regardless of the pandemic, she would have had to take a step back from DayBreak anyways, after losing her husband a short time ago. "I lost my husband three weeks ago. So, I would have had to step away anyway, but this is going to be my savior really," said Levy.
Her husband, former Mayor of Woodland Park Neil Levy, supported her throughout this endeavor. "I think my husband would be glad that we're open," said Levy.
Levy also said they took a financial hit during the closure, and any donations are much appreciated.