Individuals living with dementia recently had the opportunity to return to the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program for the first time in more than a year. Staff member Shirley Crockett, left, and Jackie McKnight helped plant flowers.

Individuals living with dementia recently had the opportunity to return to the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program for the first time in more than a year. Staff member Shirley Crockett, left, and Jackie McKnight helped plant flowers.

Photo provided by Alison Schwartz


Program for individuals with dementia returns after being closed for over a year

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2021

 Students at West Maple Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills were involved with a project that helped creatively welcome back individuals living with dementia to the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program.

Students at West Maple Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills were involved with a project that helped creatively welcome back individuals living with dementia to the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program.

Photo provided by Alison Schwartz

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SOUTHFIELD/WEST BLOOMFIELD — Local residents living with dementia were welcomed back to the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program June 3 after the program was closed for over a year.

The program, which is run jointly by JVS Human Services and Jewish Senior Life, closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Brown program has locations in both Southfield and West Bloomfield, but for the initial phased opening, staff and dementia participants have been utilizing the West Bloomfield site. The hours of operation are 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Debi Banooni, who is the director of the program, said, “We do ask that people attend at least twice a week, for at least three hours.”

She also shared other specifics of the program.

“The Brown program is an adult day program specific for people with a dementia diagnosis,” Banooni said. “We provide services for people living with dementia, as well as their care partners. … Participants come and have music activities, brain games, exercises — everything to fill their day with positive interaction and social interaction with other participants and staff to keep people engaged throughout the day, and then we provide support services to their care partners.”

Banooni said care partner support groups are offered weekly, conducted virtually.

The Brown program has had a relationship with West Maple Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills for about five years, according to West Maple Principal Jason Pesamoska.

The relationship has included fifth grade students from the school acting as pen pals and visiting with participants at the facility.

This year, the school’s character education initiative included community outreach, with children throughout the school, from kindergarten up, getting involved in creating welcome-back banners, bouquets of paper flowers, hand-decorated cards and posters for the Brown program.

“I think it’s fantastic for our participants, who see that there are these children that have been thinking about them,” Banooni said. “They see this beautiful artwork; they walk in, and it’s bright, cheery and welcoming. This has been fantastic, and we look forward to the day that we can bring our students and our participants back together in person. But the school made a huge effort to make sure that their students were still aware of other people, their needs and how to be involved.”

Being involved with community projects also has the potential to positively impact the lives of West Maple students.

“I think it’s crucial for our kids to have experiences working within their communities, to really get an understanding of what they can do to be of help, even in a small way,” Pesamoska said. “They get different service projects throughout their years at West Maple. This is a whole-school one (where) they could see that contribution the whole school could make to one place.”

The students’ contribution included the opportunity to have some fun.

“The kids loved the creativity,” Pesamoska said. “They kind of had some freedom. There was a little bit of teacher guidance, but even in third grade, going down the hallways and seeing the kids make the tissue paper flowers, having them throughout the hallways, and them learning this new skill of how to make flowers with coffee filters and water colored markers, they were excited by that part, as well.”

Despite virtual offerings being made available via the Brown program since around April of last year, there is no substitute for gathering in person, and Banooni has taken notice of what enhanced human interaction has done for participants since the facility reopened.

“In the general public, all of the isolation and the lack of activities had an effect on our thought process, our emotions, our cognitive skills, and I think that the effect was very similar, if not exacerbated for our vulnerable population of people living with dementia and their care partners,” she said. “I can tell you that just for the short time that we have been back on-site and in person, I have seen the difference in some of our participants that have been coming with us — (from) their outgoingness and interactive abilities, (to) being able to be here, be together, socializing, and all of the different activities that we offer.”

Banooni said there are currently nine participants who are a part of the program, with social distancing and masks in place.

She discussed the level of recognition participants have had in their surroundings since returning to the facility.

“It was very sweet,” Banooni said. “We did have somebody come in that asked for the regular snack that she had received in the past. … It was very heartwarming because it’s been over a year since we’ve actually been able to be here in person. We have had a few people that have recognized that, and then we’ve had a couple that haven’t, but they have very quickly warmed up to us, are participating, enjoying and engaging in the activities that we’re offering.”

Banooni said, “We are slowly building the program back up,” and, “we’ve been asked not to have more than about 17 participants at one time.”

Participants aren’t the only ones who have benefited from the reopening of the facility.

“It also provides a huge peace of mind, perhaps, for our care partners,” Banooni said. “They know their loved one is safe and well cared for, and they’re able to take some time and care for themselves. … Things that they weren’t able to do, necessarily, when we couldn’t open our center and bring their loved ones in.”

Banooni and her co-workers also get something out of the deal.

“The week before we actually opened, the staff kind (of) looked at each other and said, ‘This time, it’s really happening,’” she said. “You could feel that energy and that excitement. We had moved furniture so that we could do social distancing six months earlier, and now we were looking around and saying, ‘We are really (going to) have people back here — be able to see them, interact, and do all of those wonderful things that we have had to put on hold for over a year.”

For more information, visit jvshumanservices.org/brown-day-program.

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