01/29/2015 11:50 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT

Parkgate daycare for seniors with dementia offers break for caregivers

A new drop-in daycare program for seniors with dementia is offering a break not just to its participants, but also to those who take care of them.

The Parkgate Community Centre in North Vancouver is offering the new program twice a week those suffering from early to moderate dementia.

 It's the first program of its kind at a community centre according to organizer Erin Smith.

"It's about $30 a day, so each session is 5 hours and included is everything from art supplies to meals to snacks to all the activities they're doing in the program."

Similar programs at private clinics can be double or triple the cost.

Smith said the program is filling a gap in service because seniors with dementia don't usually get help until the later stages of the disease.

"Dementia can be a very isolating disease even at the early stages," said Smith.

"Often until you get to a really acute stage of need, the help from the health authorities doesn't kick in."

The program is also unique because it gives family members caring for a relative with dementia a chance to rest.

"Offering this respite to the caregiver was sort of a very important and secondary part to what we're doing here," Smith said.

"These are people who do not really qualify yet for programs put out there by the health authority. They could have a case worker in the community, but they may be on a waiting list to get on these specialized programs, so we felt like we were filling a gap in service to people in the community."

Smith is hoping to get more funding to expand the program and eventually offer it for free. She is also hoping to see other community centres offer similar programs to seniors with dementia.