By Megan Dooley
At first, Delfino Guerrero didn't want to participate in an adult daycare program. He feared that at 91, he'd become too much of a burden on his family, and the day program was a guise for placing him in a full-time nursing home.
Now, six months later, he can't get enough. Guerrero is an enthusiastic, twice-a-week participant in Oak Park's Accolade Adult Day Services, a Catholic Charities program that provides care for elderly residents in the greater Chicago area, and offers caregivers a regular break.
"I saw he was just going downhill," said Cynthia Guerrero of her father. After moving in with his daughter, Delfino spent most of his time sitting in front of the television. "I thought, better get him involved in some type of program. Keep him active, alert, to go out, do outings," she said.
Despite his initial fear, Cynthia said she's now thinking about increasing his visits to four or five times a week "because he does like it so much," she said.
On June 16, Accolade welcomed staffers, volunteers, participants and their families to their new and improved site on South Humphrey Avenue. After months of renovation work to improve the existing site and gain more space by expanding into an adjacent building, the Accolade office has reopened and is spacious enough to accommodate an additional 40 participants.
"It's a totally different place," said Wendy Seifert, vice president for senior services and health care with Catholic Charities. Seifert said the new wing was not much more than an old barn before the project began, and now the Accolade site is a 1500-square-foot space, complete with an office, dining area, activity rooms and more.
Theresa Gates-Ross, site director for Accolade, said she expects the number of participants to grow quickly now that capacity has increased.
"It's an awesome program," said Gates-Ross, adding that the expansion will not only allow the program to grow but will give participants the space they need to engage in their own activities.
"We can have activities going on in each room right now. And we make it happen too," she said.
The day services program begins in the morning with a meet-and-greet, followed by breakfast, and then exercise. Activities come next, and they run the gamut. On Mother's Day, the women were treated to a meal at a local hibachi restaurant. For Father's Day, the men were taken to Ben and Jerry's on Lake Street for ice cream.
"We get out," said Gates-Ross. "We're out of here!"
They've also recently visited the House of Blues in Chicago, for a history of the blues and building tour. Sometimes they stick closer to home and visit one of the Oak Park parks, or the nearby conservatory.
"I think the program is so great for socialization. They need that. It's very important for them to get together," Gates-Ross said.
Cynthia said meeting new people through the program has been a lifesaver for her dad. "When you're coming to a place where you're still being sociable, you're being liked, people are enjoying seeing you, then you're like, OK, I think I could last a couple more years doing this," she said.
Accolade also gives family members and caregivers a needed break. "We provide a respite," Gates-Ross said. "Caregiving is difficult. And a lot of times the caregivers don't understand that until they're way deep in it."
Admission to the program is fairly lenient. All seniors are welcome, but younger adults with disabilities, and others who simply need round-the-clock care, are also welcome. The price is $60 per day, but there is financial assistance available for those who qualify.