A Week in the Life of the Early Stage Center

By Lauren Volkmer, Director of Early Stage Center

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Stage Center is a place where people with early stage dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) come on a weekly basis for groups that provide support, cognitive stimulation, and socialization. Participants are all aware of their memory loss and are seeking to connect with others who are “in the same boat.” Those connections are what make up the unique fabric of our program and the community spirit that exists within our walls. To illustrate this, below are some moments in time from a typical week in the Early Stage Center.

### 10:45 a.m. Tuesday

It’s a busy morning at the Early Stage Center (ESC). Staff members are arranging tables in the Program Rooms
and putting out coffee and snacks.

Participants have begun to arrive for the first groups of the week and are congregating in the Community Room. A man picks up the newspaper on the coffee table and comments on the front page headline, making a joke. Laughter drifts out into the hallway.

As each person enters the room, the others offer warm greetings: “I haven’t seen you for awhile!” “It’s good to be back.” “Did you get a haircut?” At 11:00 a.m., some head into their Connections discussion group, others into the seven-week special improvisational theater group.

The Community Room is now quiet, but the laughter still drifts into the hallway from the two closed Program Room doors. Later on, people will arrive for the afternoon support group, and some will stay from their morning group to view today’s Movie Matinee selection: Big starring Tom Hanks. We’re pretty sure it will be a hit.

1:00 p.m. Wednesday

The two Wednesday sections of MemoryWorks®, our cognitive stimulation groups, have ended. Some participants have brought lunch to eat in the Community Room and some have gone out to buy lunch on Lexington Avenue and bring it back. Staff members are busy changing the Program Rooms around for the afternoon program and cleaning up the dishes from the morning programs.

A participant pokes her head in the door and asks with a laugh if there are any plastic spoons around – she has bought soup but forgot to get a spoon with which to eat it. A spoon is located, a spill is wiped up, and the sound of people socializing lingers.

Members of today's support group begin to arrive and greet each other. With an average age of 59, this group is significantly younger than other ESC groups. Participants shared how comforting it is to meet others with a younger-onset diagnosis who are doing their best to cope and live life to the fullest. For now, they gather around the Community Room table, sharing stories and catching up on the events of the previous week. They are among friends.

3:15 p.m. Thursday

The Community Room and Program Rooms are quiet, and the staff is taking a cumulative deep breath following the end of our final programs of the week. Today we hosted another MemoryWorks and a Connections discussion group, plus a chair yoga class.

One participant in MemoryWorks met individually with a staff member after the group about a personal issue. She left expressing gratitude and relief to have voiced her feelings. Another staff member met with a prospective participant and his care partner. The Center turned out not to be a good fit for him, but referrals were made to other programs in the community, as well as to additional CaringKind services for the care partner.

Friday and Monday will offer time to meet with colleagues, deal with clinical issues and transitions to other programs, and respond to phone calls and emails that often get delayed on program days. Although our days are full, we are grateful for the opportunity to learn the stories of our early stage participants, and to play a small role in supporting their independence and well-being. We are grateful to the donors whose generosity ensures that this program is available free of charge to those who need it.

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