Glenner Centers provide respite for caregivers, activities for those with Alzheimer’s

For those with Alzheimer’s disease, the prognosis is grim. With no cure, the inevitable outcome is a decline in cognitive ability and eventually having to rely completely on others.

While it’s a frustrating prospect for the patient, it’s equally hard on the families, as it is often a family member who steps up to care for the loved one.

Help is at hand, however, as the nonprofit Glenner Memory Care Centers offers services for both the patient and the caregiver.

Unlike most daycare centers for the aged, these care centers are only for dementia clients.

“We care for those suffering from any form of memory loss, during the daytime hours, so that their caregivers can work, run errands or simply get a break from the rigors of caregiving,” said Lisa Tyburski, director of family services.

The centers are small to avoid overwhelming the patients, and are licensed for about 30 clients per center, said Tyburski. “Two of the centers — Chula Vista and Hillcrest — are actually in real houses, so it feels like you are home,” she added.

The third location, serving North County residents, is at Silverado Senior Living on Saxony Avenue in Encinitas.

Each center is open from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. five days a week. Patients may opt to go full-days, half-days, five days a week or fewer, said Tyburski.

“We provide music therapy, pet therapy, chair yoga, singing, engagement in current events and more,” she said.

For Twyla Cox, whose mother, Ruth, attended the Hillcrest Glenner Center for four years, the services offered peace of mind.

“The staff greeted my mother with enthusiasm each morning and thanked her for coming at the end of the day, which made her feel welcomed and comfortable,” said Cox.

“She enjoyed the meals, socialization and the activities, especially the music and arts and crafts. Her needs were more than met in a safe, loving environment.”

Socialization is an important aspect of the therapy. “Being around other groups of people is stimulating and helps to keep the brain alive,” explained Tyburski.

Each center has registered nurses on staff who offer the service of managing a client’s medications. “Most of our patients have at least three other ailments and need medication for that, too, which is a bit of a daunting task,” Tyburski said.

Often, different doctors have prescribed the medications and they do not interact well with each other. The nurses are able to look at possible problems with medication interaction and work directly with the doctors so that the family does not have to deal with it.

The ratio of participants to staff is 5 to 1, so each patient is closely watched the entire period during their stay and wandering is prevented.

While they don’t have their own transportation, the centers do help the families by coordinating transportation if needed. Staffers research the schedules of public transportation and services like LIFT offered in Encinitas.

The founding of the organization 33 years ago came as the result of Dr. George Glenner — an Alzheimer’s researcher and doctor at UC San Diego — receiving a frantic call in the middle of the night from the husband of one of his Alzheimer’s patients.

“The man had a loaded gun and was so distraught from caring for his wife that the only solution he could think of was to murder his wife, then commit suicide,” Tyburski said.

The stress associated with caring for a dementia patient is overwhelming. “He just couldn’t handle it,” said Tyburski. “That was the only way to get out of his situation, he felt.”

Glenner, however, was able to stop that tragic event, and it was then that he and his wife, Joy, decided they needed to open a daycare program to help families going through the same seemingly helpless situation.

Tyburski came to work for the centers after her career in insurance. Her mother and her aunt both had Alzheimer’s.

Her aunt, diagnosed at 55, passed away at 65 and during that 10-year period went through every ugly stage of the disease, said Tyburski. Her mother then died at age 71, having developed the disease in her 60s.

“I watched my own father struggle trying to care of my mother alone,” she recalled. “Like him, so many family members try to tough it out by themselves.”

Special programs for the caregivers include support groups led by certified professionals. The Alzheimer’s patient receives free care at the center during that time, enabling the caregiver to attend without extra cost.

While daycare is not for everybody, as some clients’ disease may be too advanced, Tyburski wants people to know that the centers exist and are a cost-effective way — at $95 a day — to provide quality care in safe, caring settings.

“ We invite people to come and visit us and to evaluate us for themselves,” she said.

Visit, or call 619-543 4700.