‘Invaluable’: Caregivers lean on Timberline Adult Day Services for comfort, community and care during pandemic
FRISCO — When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, Renei Bohrer worried about how she would manage being a nurse and caring for her mother, Karen Eck, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago.
“It was scary times,” Bohrer said. “I was just worried she was sitting at home and feeling bad that she was sitting there by herself.”
Bohrer is among many other caregivers whose lives have been uniquely disrupted by the pandemic. When the world went into shutdown, caregivers found themselves without the resources they rely on for support and relief.
For those in Summit County, a main resource is Timberline Adult Day Services. In addition to being a place of social gathering and community building, Timberline offers caregivers a temporary break from the demands of caring for a loved one.
Timberline had to close its doors to in-person activities when the pandemic hit.
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Bohrer works as a night nurse at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. When she’s not working, she’s often sleeping or tending to her animals. In normal times, Eck would be at Timberline Adult Day Services while Bohrer is resting or doing housework.
For the two months that Timberline was closed, Bohrer had to spend her days doing frequent check-ins with her mother and preparing meals for her, in addition to the work she was already doing, like helping her mother with her medication and showers.
Being a nurse exacerbated the anxiety more. While Bohrer does not come in contact with COVID-19 patients in her job, she is careful every time she comes home from work.
“I was still coming home and showering before I went to bed, washing clothes or keeping my scrubs separated from everyone else’s laundry,” Bohrer said.
Bohrer isn’t the only one who relied on Timberline for support before the pandemic.
Brad Dickerson and his wife are caregivers for their 26-year-old daughter, Terra Dickerson, who has cerebral palsy.
Terra Dickerson lives with her parents full time and needs assistance with meals, getting dressed and bathing. Most importantly, she needs someone to be there in case she has seizures as a result of her epilepsy.
Before the pandemic, Terra Dickerson and her parents would be able to get a break from each other through Timberline and twice-yearly trips to Casey’s Pond, a senior living facility in Steamboat Springs.
“Terra will usually go there twice a year for two weeks at a time and that gives us a chance to go out of town,” Brad Dickerson said.
When the pandemic hit, Casey’s Pond joined nursing homes across the nation in closing its doors to outside visitors. Terra Dickerson’s last visit to the facility was in March, shortly before the nursing home locked down.
Another major anxiety for the Dickersons during the pandemic is family get-togethers. In addition to Terra Dickerson, Brad Dickerson and his wife have four other kids ranging in age from 22-34.
“It’s tough because all of her brothers and sisters have contact with a fair amount of people,” Brad Dickerson said. “We’re always worried about that, because we figured that’s probably how we would catch the virus if we did.”
Brad Dickerson said the family has had to limit contact with Terra Dickerson’s siblings, out of fear of spreading the virus to her.
Support through Timberline
If it weren’t for Timberline, both Bohrer and Brad Dickerson say they would have had a much harder time dealing with the pandemic.
While Timberline had to close its doors for its regular services, it was still able to foster connections with families. During that time, the organization delivered meals and medical equipment to participants and caregivers, provided telehealth meetings for support and hosted Zoom socialization events, Executive Director Gini Patterson said.
In addition to all of those services, Patterson and the rest of the staff also visited participants in person, going on socially distant walks and helping them cope with the transition.
“We have some middle-aged adults that love the socialization,” Patterson said. “They live in a supervised setting here in Summit County and they were very confused and distraught by the stay-at-home and what that really meant to them. That virtual support, the phone calls from our staff, our board members, our volunteers, reaching out to them became invaluable.”
When: From 5-8 p.m. on Nov. 6, Nov. 20, Dec. 4 and Dec. 18
Where: Timberline Adult Day Services, 83 Nancy’s Place in Frisco
What: Timberline will be open to the loved ones of caregivers to allow caregivers a break.
How: Space is limited due to the novel coronavirus. Sign up ahead of time by calling 970-668-2952.
Bohrer said if it weren’t for Timberline, she isn’t sure how Eck would get the socialization she needs.
“Just knowing that she can come here and interact, she’s safe, they do great activities,” Bohrer said. “They went biking. They went on the Georgetown Railroad. Just great activities that get her out and she’s safe and can socialize with other people. I don’t feel as guilty knowing that she’s just sitting on the couch in the house all day.”
Brad Dickerson, who is on Timberline’s board of directors, echoed Bohrer’s sentiments.
“It’s absolutely invaluable” Brad Dickerson said. “You couldn’t really even express how important it is to have a place like Timberline, and there’s so many communities that don’t have a place like Timberline.”
Going forward, Timberline is planning more activities and events to provide much needed relief for caregivers. Throughout November, which is National Caregiver Month, and December, the program is hosting “caregiver appreciation nights.”
On those nights, Timberline will be open to participants, to allow caregivers to get away for a date night, holiday gift shopping or just some “me time,” Patterson said.
“I think the caregivers, they can feel very much alone during these times without support,” she said. “Timberline is here for them.”
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