- Megan Robinder
- DayBreak facilitates quality time in a warm setting.
It's Friday at DayBreak, a day program for those 60 and over who have Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, have suffered a stroke or struggle with some other impairment. A banjo player has shown up to play for the clients. He seats himself in the center of the room and begins strumming. Soon, at the request of one guest, he's launching into "Danny Boy," with each participant singing along. Almost everyone knows every song he'll play, and on the faster tunes, they clap along.
Paula Levy founded DayBreak in May 2015, and has 27 years of experience working with seniors in long-term care and day-program settings. She started the nonprofit after volunteering with caregiver support groups and witnessing the need in the area for respite care. It functions as the only program of its kind in Teller County: "DayBreak is filling a void in our community," Levy says.
Located in a small house in Woodland Park, it provides care in a homey atmosphere. The place is an intermediary that provides respite so that full-time caregivers can get a short break, perhaps to run errands or just get a few quiet moments to themselves, without having to place their loved one in a nursing home.
"We want to keep people home as long as possible and keep caregivers' batteries charged," she says.
The house provides a very cozy setting, with plenty of comfortable seating, quilts thrown over the backs of chairs, and cute artwork on the walls. A stained-glass depiction of a rising sun hangs in the front window. The friendly attitude of DayBreak's qualified and experienced staff adds to the warm environment. While there, DayBreak visitors participate in a myriad of activities. The program often features musical guests, crafts, baking, outings to the movies, and just general fun. Levy says they want to "keep people stimulated and socialized," along with their mission of giving caregivers that rejuvenating time for themselves.
Charles Oaks' experience is a model example of the benefits. His wife, Helgi, attended DayBreak three times a week, before she passed in August. He'd been taking care of her for 20 years, and has now joined the DayBreak board of directors. He recalls a moment when, despite being mostly nonverbal, Helgi turned to him on the ride home one day and said, "I had a really good time." Those were the last words she ever said to him.
"I felt relieved and comforted leaving her at a place that she was respected and cared for," he says. "There's always a worry when you leave your loved one somewhere, but I felt comfortable that she was in an environment where she was well-received."
When Helgi died, Oaks asked that in lieu of memorial flowers, people donate to DayBreak in her name. So many gave generously that DayBreak was able to purchase a passenger van. That now enables them to provide transportation to participants who need it, as well as take those in their care on outings during the day.
Oaks says that the time his family spent at DayBreak was "a blessing in our life at a crucial time." For many families like his, DayBreak makes a difficult time more bearable. Visit daybreakadp.com for more.