Helping Hands

Adult Daycare Stimulates Minds While Offering Caregivers a Change of Pace


It wasn’t too long before Change of Pace’s Administrator Cora Schwingel realized that it wasn’t just the caregivers getting a break at the adult daycare in Sebring; the clients loved it as well.


Since 2012, Change of Pace has offered a safe place for clients with dementia or Alzheimer’s to enjoy activities with others while caregivers can do, well, anything they’d like. Caregivers might use the time to indulge in activities they once enjoyed. Others use part of the time to simply rest.


Naps aren’t part of Darrel Heckman’s agenda, though. He’s in the process of filling out the paperwork to register his wife, Ruth, who holds a doctorate in education. She was diagnosed with dementia three years ago. 


He plans to revisit activities in which he used to have more time to indulge.


“I’m going to continue to declutter the house,” he said. “(I’ll play) golf. And I love the woods. I like to shoot, so to get to do some of those things would be very pleasing to me.”


Heckman goes to Memorial United Methodist Church for one of the three support session locations offered by Change of Pace, led by Schwingel, where he found out about the daycare.


“When I went I realized where I had come from that time to now, I don’t know where I’d be without this group,” said the Lake Placid resident. “I’ve learned so much from these caregivers, and I’m not knocking the medical field, but it’s just not in their books.”


Caregivers share tips and advice in the support group. And they exchange real-life stories with ample opportunity to “just get things off your chest.” And they talk about the benefits of taking time for oneself.


Learning that Ruth would be socializing with others and also exercising were what tipped the scales for Heckman to sign Ruth up for Change of Pace.


Snacks and nutritious meals are part of the day at the program, where clients meet new friends, tell stories, and socialize.


“Socialization is very important because (partners with dementia) have a tendency to withdraw,” he said.


And he equates the exercise she’ll get as “oxygen to the brain.”


“Most of our clients have some type of dementia, and it is good for them to get regular stimulation,” Schwingel said.


Some Change of Pace regulars frequent it five days a week. On average, it’s about three to four days a week that clients come to take part in the activities, such as chair exercises, painting and puzzles. Change of Pace launched Cardio Drumming earlier this month, where participants pound huge rubber balls with drumsticks in rhythm to music like “The Twist.” It was a huge hit with more sessions to follow.


Change of Pace aims for person-centered activities, where each client is assessed based on preferences and abilities, with activities tailored to their individual needs.


Shwingel breaks down the cost-benefit ratio by comparing the price of an in-home caregiver versus the cost of Change of Pace. The difference is three hours with an in-home caregiver to a full day at Change of Pace.


Additionally, Change of Pace clients are given the opportunity to get out of the house while allowing the caregiver to stay home if they choose. There, caregivers can turn their productivity on other needs at home without interruption, like laundry, cleaning or even sleep. 


“That’s the benefit of adult daycare that a lot of people don’t recognize,” Schwingel said.


Heckman knows Ruth will be in good hands because he has already seen the conscientious and caring environment at the support groups.


“There is such a drastic need for this in other communities because there are a lot of caregivers,” he said. “To be honest, your life has taken a different turn.”


The five people who started Change of Pace in 2012 did it with the goal in mind to offer caregivers a needed change of pace, thus the name.


The main purpose for opening the nonprofit was to give the caregivers a break so that they could better care for themselves and therefore take better care of their loved ones, Schwingel said.


Heckman can attest to this. He knows he needs to take time for himself to take care of himself, which he has already had a taste of attending the support group.


“They needed to be taken care of,” Schwingel said. “They needed help to guide them through the journey.”


Change of Pace holds support group meetings three times a week.


“Support groups help caregivers to realize they are not alone in the journey that they are on and give them pointers to make the journey a bit easier,” Swingel said.  


It offers adult daycare five days a week.  


Change of Pace is the only Adult Day Care in Highlands County, according to Schwingel. It operates inside Sebring Christian Church.


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