Joy’s House Provides Hope, Respite and a Sense of Community
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
When Jane Bentley’s husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it eventually became clear that he could no longer stay at home by himself, she wasn’t sure what to do as she was still working full time and couldn’t afford to lose her job. A friend encouraged her to check out Joy’s House, which offers adult day services, and she was glad she did.
“Joy’s House saved my life,” says Bentley, who took her husband there five days per week, never having to worry about his care. “From the first time we stepped through the door, I knew the staff was full of love and compassion, and had a true calling for what they were doing.”
Beyond tending to her husband, Bentley was touched by the kindness the staff showed to her as well.
“We were four years into the Alzheimer’s journey when we went to Joy’s House, and that was the first time anyone asked how I was doing, in addition to ‘Tell us about your husband,’” Bentley says. “That small question was huge to me.”
The idea for Joy’s House was conceived more than two decades ago by Tina McIntosh after her father had an accident and she was launched into the role of caregiver from afar, as he was located in Fort Wayne and she was in Indianapolis. She saw a gap in care and options for adults living with life-altering diagnoses, so she founded Joy’s House, a nonprofit that provides safety and community to adults 18 and over who can’t stay home alone safely due to basic aging or a variety of diagnoses, including dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Down syndrome. Several years later, McIntosh realized that caregivers needed more support, so caregiver support services were introduced to the Joy’s House mission.
At Joy’s House, clients – referred to as guests – engage in fellowship and programming in a safe environment. Because many have dementia, routine is critical. Therefore, each day they start with coffee and conversation, followed by a physical activity such as kicking a ball or doing a chair exercise. After lunch it’s time for creative expression through activities like painting and gardening. That’s followed by some sort of mental stimulation such as trivia, a word game and of course bingo.
Sometimes volunteers come to Joy’s House to play instruments for the guests. Others bring their pets for the guests to love on. During holidays local classrooms of kids will drop by to perform songs. All such special events serve to uplift the guests.
“When kids and animals come in, our guests’ faces light up,” says Corrina Thompson, community relations manager. “Energies shift and a calm fills the space.”
The facility is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and some guests are there all day, every day, while others may only come twice per week for a few hours. Scheduling is based on each family’s unique needs.
“Sometimes our caregivers feel a little guilty at first as there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in dropping their loved one off, but they become family,” Thompson says.
Thompson stresses the importance of caregivers taking time for themselves too, whether that involves taking a nap, playing golf or simply going to work worry-free, knowing that their loved one is in good hands.
Joy’s House is currently accepting new families. One needn’t reside in Marion County to be a guest at Joy’s House, as they accept Hamilton County residents and residents from anywhere as long as the caregiver can provide transportation.
Thompson maintains that adult day services are often underutilized in general, simply because it’s a difficult subject to tackle.
“People don’t want to think about this part of life,” Thompson says. “They don’t want to talk about life-altering diagnoses or think about what that dignity looks like as we prepare for the end of life, but it’s important.”
Spending time at Joy’s House can make a positive impact. Recently a guest’s son reported that after spending a few days at Joy’s House, his mother started singing around the house again.
“Joy’s House is the whole package,” Bentley says. “There is no amount of money that would be enough to repay them for everything they did for us. I will forever consider Joy’s House family and will forever be grateful to them for their all-encompassing support.”
Joy’s House is located at 2028 East Broad Ripple Avenue in Indianapolis. For more information, call 317-254-0828 or visit joyshouse.org.