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Tampa Bay dementia support return

Melvin Monroe has always known that if circumstances changed, his older sister would gladly take care of him.

Eloise Crump has always cared for her, this fiery woman who taught in Hillsborough County schools for 30 years and seemed to find victory in any slot machine she touched.

Monroe, a 68-year-old Tampa resident, still remembers the hot meals she ate when she was a young single adult.

Now 81, Crump has dementia. During the years of confinement, Monroe did her best to keep her engaged: to take her for a walk, to facilitate calls with loved ones, to chat during dinners. “But I’m not trained,” he said. “You know, I love him and I know he has to eat,” he said.

“Caring is a challenge, but the biggest challenge is seeing someone you love decrease their height,” Monroe added. “I saw a regression because I just had no activity.”

This made Monday morning especially joyful for the couple.

Hillsborough County-run Adult Day Care Centers reopened this week, joining other Tampa Bay support groups that have begun cautiously resuming face-to-face activities for seniors with disabilities.

“After two years at home, with little or no contact with anyone, it’s amazing,” said Stacey Miller, a 53-year-old caregiver of her older sister who attended the reopening of the Phyllis Busansky Senior Center. on May 9th. “It’s a wonderful thing. Not just me and her, but my family, period.”

Adult daycare centers provide a space for seniors to meet and socialize. Many older people who attend have some form of developmental dementia or disability, which means that activities are often geared toward mental stimulation, from memory games to pet therapy and exercise.

The pandemic closed many of these centers, cutting a lifeline for many working caregivers who relied on these programs to keep their loved ones active and safe throughout the day.

At age 20, Patricia Miller changed her little sister’s diapers. Now, as an adult, Stacey Miller takes care of her.

Patricia Miller, 71, has a developmental disability. Because her age put her at high risk for severe coronavirus disease, her sister had limited contact with other people for the past two years.

Phone calls from senior center staff kept her afloat, especially on the days when Stacey Miller had to leave for work as an elevator dealer.

“If it weren’t for the women at the center with these phone calls three times a week, sometimes twice a day, it kept her stimulated, not isolated,” Miller said. “Because of the pandemic … he didn’t have much interaction with anyone.”

Two of Hillsborough County’s adult day care centers, Phyllis Busansky Senior Center and Plant City Adult Day Services, are now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The remaining two centers will open in a few weeks, according to Remona Singleton, 39, a senior supervisor at the Busansky Center.

Other organizations that serve caregivers and the elderly, such as the Florida Alzheimer’s Association, also opened for face-to-face programming last month, according to Matt Eaton, a spokesman for the chapter.

“It also gives me a break,” said Monroe, a Tampa resident who cares for her sister. “It simply came to our notice then. I can do things in a slightly more relaxed environment.

“The centers are fantastic,” he added. “They need more.”

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