Disability Support Client Profile

Ruth and Syd Bernard ~ client profile

When you first walk into the Oaks ~ Adult Day Services, you notice something different from other programs for adults with memory impairments and cognitive difficulties. You see people socializing. Talking. Practicing yoga and Tai Chi. Cooking. Listening to music and playing board games; laughing. Living.

A five-day a week program, The Oaks, a program of Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County (CSSW), provides stimulating activities designed to improve social interaction and mental acuity for its members while also providing much needed support for loved ones seeking a break from the demands of daily caregiving.

Syd Bernard has led the kind of life most would envy. He and his wife Ruth are happily married with two children and five grandchildren filling out their family tree. After receiving his doctorate at Brandeis University, he built a rewarding 40-year career at the University of Michigan as a professor of social work. He’s traveled extensively, has enjoyed an active social life and kept himself physically fit.

Nine years ago, Syd was diagnosed with age-related dementia.

“I just didn’t think that this could possibly happen,” says Ruth. “Syd had a fantastic memory and could find his way around anywhere. I put it down to the memory failures of normal aging. I was in a lot of denial, I refused to even think about it.”

After the initial shock, Ruth realized that her husband’s well-being was now in her hands. “I realized I had to take care of him. I’ve got to do this. But as Syd became more physically debilitated, I was becoming really tired—exhausted would be a better word. That’s when I knew I need to have outside help.”

Ruth tried home care and other day service options before choosing The Oaks, which stood out because of its therapeutic approach. What makes the Oaks a model for individuals with cognitive impairments is that it operates under five core values: comfort, care, compassion, dignity and respect.

The program has created structure and stimulation to Syd’s day. Equally important, the program gives Ruth the much needed respite she needs as well; helping her keep mentally and physically able to provide for her partner. And that’s the entire point. For comfort, care, compassion, dignity and respect aren’t simple slogans at The Oaks. They are the tenets from which the program is based.

When you look at two extraordinary people like Syd and Ruth Bernard, you can see how.