The Glenner is an establishment located in the heart of the city, little known, but highly dedicated in aiding a segment of local society. It is a memory care center that is the daytime home for some 30 to 40 individuals who spend the hours involved in tasks that they probably would not attempt on their own.
I spent a part of a morning last week at the Glenner speaking with staff members, notably the program director, Bernicemina Molina, and touring the working spaces of the center. On the day I was with Ms. Molina there were about 40 individuals all involved in some form of art expression that happened to be the curriculum of the hour. The number of patrons enrolled is more like 70 but they don’t always come in.
I was alerted to The Glenner by a long time Bonitan, Sue Hiatt. Many years ago we wrote a story about Sue and her career in art. She is an accomplished painter who spent many years in Japan, with her Navy husband, living among fishermen and their families and chronicling events of their everyday life through the medium of visual art. In recent years she and I led lives that were somewhat in common. We were both caretakers for spouses with Alzheimer’s.
The Glenner has been around for 30 years, with three units in Encinitas, Hillcrest and the one in Chula Vista. In that period of time they have provided individualized high-quality day programs in a family-like setting for adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory impairment. Many of the patrons, both men and women are of the frail and elderly in addition to many veterans.
The staff at the centers are all highly trained and well experienced. They are devoted to the participants with the goal of enhancing the daily life of those individuals by offering structured, therapeutic activities, nutritional meals and socialization that the research has shown as delaying cognitive decline that is one of the chief characteristics of the disease.
The center is secure and boasts the lowest direct-staff ratio in the South Bay which offers the ability to keep a loved one at home for a longer period of time or provide a meaningful transition of care.
In my early days as a caregiver for my late life, Zula, I recall speaking with a mortician at his place of business. He knew of my plight and pointed to the front doors of the home. He reminded me that it was very likely that the caregiver would enter before the victim.
The Glenner knows this and therefore the focus of its mission is to provide support and resources for the caregiver. Adult day programs offer the caregiver respite, the ability to continue working and reduced financial obligation. The center’s weekly groups and seminars that are professionally facilitated, offered at no-charge help prepare the caregiver in the caring for someone who has particular needs.
Sue Hiatt is active with one of these groups. Each Wednesday afternoon she joins a group at the center where she shares valuable information which she stored from her own experience and at the same time gleans other professional information that others offer.
To dwell longer on the disease itself would be rather redundant. Hardly a day goes by that we do not read about it in the daily paper or see it pop up in our Internet. It is high up there in the cause of death category and that is simply because there is no known cure.
There are vasts amounts of research in various hospitals and science centers worldwide but as yet there is nothing definitive regarding any breakthroughs. For the time being we must be content that we do have the research, but, more importantly, we do have Sue Hiatts and those other caregivers who unflinchingly have taken up the mantle of care.