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Missing the Hand You Hold

We are always excited to welcome someone new to our Insight family!

What to Expect:
Your First Day at the Day Center

You’ve completed the intake assessment, squared away the physical paperwork, and signed all of the enrollment forms. Your loved one’s first day at the day center is on the calendar! But now you're wondering: What will the day look like? How will my loved one do?

We'll Set the Stage!
Having just gone through adjusting my second child to daycare, I can relate to some of the anxiety of handing your loved one’s care over to someone else. Will they be able to form a new trusting relationship with the staff? Will the staff attend to the little details of their care and follow their established routines? (Not to mention – what will I do with myself now that I have a few hours alone?)

At Insight, there are many processes in place going on behind the scenes to ensure our staff are ready to welcome your loved one on day one. All of the information you provided about your loved one, from their dietary restrictions, to whether or not they wear hearing aids, to where they were born, to their favorite musical artist – all of this information has already been compiled into a complete written care plan by our social work department. The information in the care plan is disseminated to the day center staff on a one-page summary sheet, and then announced during our morning stand-up meeting. The first day your loved one walks through the door, they already have a care plan in place. The staff have been debriefed on their care needs and their history and interests.

For example, if I were starting at the day center, the staff would already know my husband and children’s names, and they would know that my career centered around providing care to individuals with dementia. They would be ready to spark a conversation with me about Dostoevsky, Pennsylvania, or travel to Iceland, New Zealand, or Germany. They would be ready to turn on some Sara Bareilles or offer me some ice cream if I started to get anxious!

Creating a Positive First Day
We typically recommend that the first day be a shorter day – something like 10:00am until 2:00pm – to help ease them into the center and its routine. It is a stressor on anybody coming to a completely new environment – remember your first day at a new job? – but for someone with a memory impairment, one can reasonably expect some additional challenges as they navigate a new setting. The early afternoon pick-up also ensures that your loved one does not have to see many other participants leaving before they do, which can escalate any underlying anxiety about how they are getting home. We want them to leave their first day with a positive feeling – not feeling like the day dragged on too long and a worry that perhaps they would never be picked up!

For participants who are more reticent about coming, Insight staff may help you strategize ways to help get their initial buy-in to attend the program. Insight is many things to many different people – is your loved one coming to “volunteer,” to “work,” or to a social “club?” Are they aware enough of their diagnosis that it is helpful to remind them that their neurologist recommended they attend Insight as a part of their treatment plan? Are they receptive to the idea that coming to Insight to give you some time to run errands and get work done? Are they interested in coming to help co-lead a particular activity around a hobby or interest? If they are financially-conscious, is it helpful to say that they’ve paid for the month, so let’s try it and reevaluate after 30 days? We are always happy to brainstorm to find the reason that would most resonate with your loved one.

We will help introduce your loved one to other participants in the center, and help guide them to the appropriate program room. The recreation staff will help prompt their participation at a level that is comfortable for them – some participants jump in right away, while those who are more reserved may prefer more time to observe before joining in. The nursing department will do an unobtrusive initial assessment of the participant on their first day as well – obtain their vital signs, speak with them, and obtain a general baseline of their health status. Day center managers will check in with the individual throughout the day and provide as much (or as little) one-on-one support as they may need.

After their first day, you will always receive a report about how the day went. Did they participate in the programs? Did they show any signs of anxiety? Did they socialize with anybody?  Did they eat and drink well at lunch?

Remember Adjustment Takes Time!
What if your loved one comes home their first day and says they never want to go back, or that they hated it, or that they did nothing all day? We try to counsel everybody to come in expecting an adjustment period. It is not uncommon for a participant to take several weeks to form new relationships with the staff and other participants, and to really settle into the center’s routine, and to start to internalize that they are definitely going back home at the end of the day (another common fear is that Insight is a “nursing home” where they will stay permanently)! It can be helpful to think of their first day as a first date – we’ve read their online profile about themselves, but now that we are actually meeting and spending time together, it can take a few dates to really start to open up and find a level of comfort being with that person. We will give you an honest review of their first day and will keep in contact with you about how their adjustment progresses, so please know our doors are open to you with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have!

Insight staff may suggest additional strategies, such as sending in a note reminding your loved one of when you will arrive to take them home, providing the center with some family photos so that we have good memories to discuss with them – or we might send home photos of them having a good time at the center to show them, or any other number of creative ideas!

Ultimately, our goal is to make the adjustment process as easy as possible – both for you and your loved one – and to partner with you to problem solve if any issues should arise. We want every participant who comes to feel welcomed and respected, and to enjoy themselves while they are here. We also want each participant to know that we care about them as a unique individual with their own history, stories, and preferences. We are always excited to welcome somebody new to our Insight family! 

It’s why we do what we do – to bring quality of life and moments of joy to our participants each day. The participant’s first day is where all these opportunities begin!



Stephanie Houpt, MSW, LMSW, CDP is the Program Director for the Day Center at Insight.






"I like that IMCC focuses on dementia-related problems and provides a focal point for families to network and socially interact in coping with dementia. It provides a community that helps us in our struggle."