Todd Simmons

Cleveland State University
Benjamin Rose Adult Day Program

Spring 2016

“This provided me with valuable information and ideas on how to engage and intervene with caregivers.”

This semester, I am completing the Master’s in Social Work program at Cleveland State University. My field practicum has taken place at the Benjamin Rose Adult Day Program, which provides adult day services for older persons with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive and functional impairments. Activities include arts and crafts, current events, fine and gross motor activities, games, horticulture, and musical activities.

Although my area of concentration is gerontology, and despite my extensive work and volunteer experience with older adults, this was my first opportunity to engage with this segment of the elder population. Beginning fieldwork required considerable research, and I tried to learn as much as I could about persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as the symptoms and stages of various cognitive impairment. The majority of social work literature involves practice with the caregivers of these individuals, as their role will take on growing importance as the disease and symptoms progress.

Early on, caregivers became the focus of my internship. My role at the agency provided some newfound flexibility, and my field instructor, Crystal Wallace, ADP Assistant Director, was eager to reconnect with the caregivers of the clients at the Day Program. In recognition of November as “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month” and “National Caregivers Month,” my planned project became to help resurrect the Day Program’s caregiver support group. This initiative involved creating a monthly caregiver newsletter, as well as other various outreach efforts.

One significant obstacle proved to be that the time clients spend at the program serves as a time of respite for the caregivers. My involvement with support group activities was limited due to my restrictive hours at the internship, which took place during regular business hours. Common feedback from caregivers was they would have liked to be more involved, but their respite time was necessary to take care of chores and errands, or simply time to take care of themselves.

Among the numerous opportunities was attending a caregiver conference at Benjamin Rose. This provided me with valuable information and ideas on how to engage and intervene with caregivers. As coursework influenced fieldwork, and vice versa, I was able to share my experiences and newly gained knowledge with my fellow students. The launch of the “Music & Memory” pilot program provided another opportunity, as caregiver involvement is necessary and crucial. I must also credit my field instructor for informing me about the Ohio Scholars in Aging program. The benefits of which are too vast to list, yet involvement in the group reinforced how important inter-professional collaboration is to the field of aging. It has also demonstrated the attention given to issues of “Caregiver Awareness” and “Music & Memory” at the state, county, and local levels.