Aging Well: Caregivers' input sought on program planned at The Haven

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Coordinators planning an Adult Day Services program at The Haven (and other locations in Routt and Moffat counties) need residents' and caregivers' input about services and activities they would like to see in local ADS programs. To share feedback or learn more about the program, call Karen Burley at 276-1414.

The Caregiver Support Program, operated through the Northwest Colorado Options for Longterm Care, provides financial help with costs related to caregiving, including adult day services. For more information, call Nancy McStay at 824-5646, or, to request an application, call 877-963-8731.

A family member or friend caring for an elderly or disabled person at home is an increasingly common situation.

Some caregivers juggle work along with worry, guilt and stress as they delegate caregiving responsibilities to other family members or friends. Others simply are exhausted from providing 24-hour care.

Meanwhile, the person needing care may feel lonely or worry he or she is a burden and will have to live in assisted living or a nursing home.

Soon, there will be a local, cost-effective option for overworked and over-stressed caregivers, as well as for older adults who want to remain living at home.

Adult day services, which are similar in concept to child day care, provides older and disabled adults a safe, engaging place to be during the day, as well as meals, help with personal and medication needs and other services - while caregivers work or take needed time for themselves.

The first program will be housed in the expansion of The Haven Assisted Living Center in Hayden. Administrators plan to have that program up and running when construction is complete later this year.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association's Aging Well program also plans to provide adult day services at the Rollingstone Respite House in Steamboat Springs and eventually in Craig, though a site for the latter has not been established.

Haven Director Karen Burley and her assistant, Diane Girty, look forward to developing a program that best fits the community's needs, though they aren't sure exactly what those needs are.

A recent survey in Hayden revealed most residents don't understand the concept of adult day services. As they become more educated, Burley hopes caregivers and families will contact her to discuss how the program could help them.

"We want to gear this program for what people need," Burley said. "The only way we're going to know that is if they start talking to us."

Filling a need

Adult day services are expected to be an increasingly important option for the growing number of older adults and caregivers facing a lack of long-term care facilities and resources to pay for them.

In the Yampa Valley, the area's two skilled nursing facilities - the Doak Walker Care Center, in Steamboat, and Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehab, in Craig - are full, and there is a waiting list for The Haven.

That doesn't bode well for aging baby boomers who haven't even started accessing those services, Burley said.

Adult day services are designed to provide regular support for working families and caregivers during the week, as well as respite for caregivers needing a break from providing full-time care to a loved one.

Candidates for adult day services include disabled adults, older adults who need help with daily needs and may have chronic illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, and older adults who live alone with the help of drop-in caregivers.

Burley tentatively plans to offer the program from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

During that time, participants will have breakfast and lunch, may have help with bathing and other personal needs and can enjoy games and other activities.

There will be certified nursing assistants on staff to monitor participants' weight, blood pressure and other health indicators and to administer medications. The program also may contract with physical therapists, speech therapists and other providers to help with participants' other needs.

"Each person will have an individualized care plan," Burley said.

The program will be modeled after The Haven's assisted living program, and Burley anticipates some people may enroll in adult day services while waiting for a spot to open in assisted living. There likely will be eight daily spots available in the adult day program.

Adult day program staff will be able to care for participants who have more extensive needs than assisted living residents, excepting those requiring 24-hour nursing care.

Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of adult day services is its cost: About $59 per day on average in the U.S., according to the Genworth Financial 2008 Cost of Care Survey.

Comparatively, the average daily cost for a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility in 2007 was $189, while the cost for assisted living was about $97 per day (or $139 in facilities charging more for Alzheimer's/dementia-related care), according to the 2007 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing Home & Assisted Living Costs.

Colorado is among states with a Medicaid waiver program that reimburses costs of adult day services for qualified individuals. A Medicaid case manager determines a person's eligibility for the program based on his or her financial standing and ability to perform certain daily functions.

Adult day services programs must meet Medicaid regulations in order to receive reimbursement.

Once The Haven adult day program is open, Burley will concentrate on the paperwork and process necessary for accepting participants funded through Medicaid, she said.

Cost considerations aside, adult day services provide an important solution for families struggling to attend their own needs while creating a nurturing and caring environment for an elderly or disabled adult family member.

By choosing to participate in an adult day program, a person needing care can help ensure he or she will continue to age more happily and independently at home while gaining a sense of control over daily life.

The social interaction with other older adults also will help prevent the loneliness and isolation prevalent among elderly individuals, particularly in rural areas.

In addition to easing the stress and worry associated with caregiving, adult day programs, by helping with participants' personal care tasks during the day, allow families more quality time together at home in the evening.

In order to develop the most effective program, however, Burley needs to hear families' stories, suggestions and questions.

"Now is the time to talk to us about what their needs are," she said.

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at tammarie74@yahoo.com. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults ages 50 and older. For more information, log onto www.agingwelltoday.com or call 871-7676.

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