‘It feels like home’

The Adult Day program offers care and a sense of belonging to elders and their families.

Maria Charbonneau spent her career as a licensed nursing assistant, often caring for the elderly. But that all changed several years ago when she broke her leg in a fall. It left her struggling to stay mobile, unable to work and in need of regular care herself.

“It can be hard living on my own,” says Maria, now a regular at the UVM Health Network – Home Health & Hospice Adult Day program in South Burlington. “But here at the program, it feels like home.”

Led by nurses, activity specialists and volunteers, the Adult Day program is designed for adults and elders who want to continue living independently — either in their own home or with family — but who may need extra assistance or companionship. In a safe, home-like environment, the Adult Day program aims to encourage social engagement, physical activity and a sense of community. It offers social and recreational activities, medical and therapeutic care, exercise and healthy, hot meals.

Adult Day has been assisting individuals and families in Chittenden County for decades. It traditionally supported more than 100 adults and elders across three sites in Colchester, Essex and South Burlington. However, the program was closed for much of 2020 because of COVID-19 and a subsequent statewide pause of adult day care services. The program reopened in South Burlington in June.

“Restarting the Adult Day program has been so important for all of us — to my team, our participants, their caregivers and for me personally,” says Donna Perretta, who supervises the program in South Burlington.


Respite for Caregivers

The pandemic pushed many caregivers to their limits, so the program’s reopening has provided many families with much-needed respite. Christy Bougor, a native of Essex, Vt., has lived with and cared for her father-in-law, Henry Bougor, for more than 15 years.

He really declined during the pandemic his mobility, his cognitive abilities and most of all his state of mind, Christy says. I was dedicating at least eight hours a day to caring for him in some way, on top of my full-time job, and my husband and son were right in the thick of it as well. It took a huge toll on the family.

Henry now spends four days a week at the Adult Day program. According to Christy, the impact was immediate. Henry’s memory and mobility improved. His outlook brightened. He wakes up excited to go to work at the program and enjoys walking and socializing with his family and his colleagues.

Charbonneau, who was often confined to a wheelchair, also credits the program for an improvement in her physical and mental well-being. I get more exercise here than I do on my own,Charbonneau says, who now walks with a cane. I love the group activities bowling, bocce, cornhole but the group meals are my favorite!