Free First Sunday program offers respite for caregivers, special activities for loved ones

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NEWPORT — First Sunday, a diocesan respite program designed to support caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other progressive memory disorders, allows caregivers to spend an afternoon to themselves, away from the rigors of caregiving, while their loved one enjoys an afternoon of structured activities. The program’s newest location is the St. Clare – Newport Adult Day Health Program.

Numerous national and international studies have proven that the demands of long term caregiving take its toll on the health and wellbeing of caregivers, explained Kathy McKeon, supervisor, Office of Community Services & Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Providence.

“Caregivers who take a regular break from these duties fare better than those who don’t,” she said. “First Sunday provides a cost free block of time when the caregiver knows their loved one is safe and cared for, and the caregiver is able to do whatever they choose — a movie, shopping, a visit with grandchildren, a few quiet hours at home alone.”

McKeon shared that currently in Rhode Island, agencies that provide in-home care, usually by a Certified Nursing Assistant, are having a tough time filing jobs.

“The First Sunday Program is one way of offering a little help, particularly for folks in areas where in home services are stretched. This is why we are so pleased to have St. Clare’s join us. Aquidneck Island is an area of the state where in home services are sometimes hard to arrange. While we know it takes time to build awareness of a program like First Sunday we are confident that St. Clare’s Adult Day will be a lasting and growing resource for folks on Aquidneck Island.”

The program will be staffed by St. Clare – Newport employees who are skilled in providing care to those with memory impairments. First Sunday is offered at no cost with funding from the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Participants do not need to be enrolled at St. Clare – Newport.

Jennifer Patrusevich, RN, program director for the St. Clare-Newport Adult Day Health Program, shared that every First Sunday Program will include interactive entertainment and activities such as gardening, crafts, cooking or baking, Wii Sports, art, tai chi, yoga and many more including cognitive based activities such as trivia, board or card games.

Patrusevich added that First Sunday is an important opportunity for caregivers, who will have an afternoon to enjoy coffee with a friend, or go out to dinner with family without having any concerns.

“They will be able to have time, no matter how small, to have a rest from being a caregiver. Caregivers love knowing that their mom, or wife, husband, family member is having an enjoyable afternoon with others their own age in an environment where the staff understands the unique needs of caring for individuals with dementia. The activities are appropriate for their cognitive abilities, allowing them to succeed while they are here. Families have often told me that they struggle with finding activities which would interest their loved one, and after coming here, they always go home in a good mood, even if they can’t remember the activities.”

First Sunday is a partnership between diocesan Catholic Social Services, the Division of Elderly Affairs and Rhode Island’s licensed Adult day Centers who choose to participate.

First Sunday will take place on the following dates: April 8 and May 6. Space is limited to 25 people. Pre –registration is required at least one week in advance. Call 401-849-3204 ext. 735 or ext. 719 for more information.