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Area adults serve community, food bank despite cognitive disorders

Aug 31, 2017 09:48AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

The 11 adults who made the trek to the Utah Food Bank pose for a photo. (Photo/Kabi Catalano)

By Brian Shaw   |    brian.shaw@mycityjournals.com

They arrive at the Neighborhood House Adult Day Service Facility every day, suffering from cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia, among other things. Most of them are pushing age 90 or older. 

But, when push comes to shove, these adults may be afflicted by these diseases and old age—they just don't let their afflictions or their age affect them.  

Because when they stepped up to help on July 28, delivering hundreds of pounds of food they collected and packed into boxes to the Utah Food Bank on 3150 S. 900 West in South Salt Lake, they were doing something that was far greater than the sum of its parts. 

“Service projects give our adults a chance to still feel engaged in their community, a chance to feel needed and important. They enjoy being helpful and giving back. It’s a time for them to collaborate with their caregivers as a team,” said Tyler Howard, adult day service program coordinator at Neighborhood House.  

Three weeks after they'd collected food from family and friends, and hand-decorated the boxes in which the donations were collected from family and friends, these 11 adult and several Neighborhood House employees packed up the boxes and piled into the facility's 15-passenger van for the short trek to the food bank.

On each of these boxes went their handprints and drawings, as well as flowers and words, painted reminders that somebody's attention and care went into crafting each of these packages.

It's important to remember this because some days at the facility, these adults will sing to their heart's content while they relive the golden years, those World War II-era songs about being down at Palisades Park and doing the sock hop that they loved. For many of them, a song like that doesn't just harken back the good 'ol days—it's all they can remember to hold onto. 

On other days, they'll take a leisurely stroll around the 5.5-acre facility, soaking in the sunshine as they admire the flower blossoms. Or, on certain days they might even ask Howard to roll out the big board—over which giant sheets of white paper are draped—bearing six columns and rows, each with a different historical category scrawled out at the top in magic marker. 

They know it's time to play “Jeopardy!”, the game show Howard brings to life on these rare occasions in this day-use facility. It's a way to have fun and, maybe connect with a past they might sometimes forget. 

But, many across the valley who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders don't get the opportunity to even have a caretaker shuttle them to a day-use facility like the Neighborhood House. And so, they too play their own form of jeopardy every day. 

That's when these adults—who may indeed have these memory problems and more—are so vital when they step in to help fill a giant void in places like South Salt Lake.

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