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DIANE MAKAR MURPHY At adult day care, they're laughing like kids



Published: Thu, September 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The building next to the now-vacant Home Place store in Boardman used to be a children's day care center. If you pulled into its covered circular drive and walked through its glass doors, you could hear laughter.

The children's day care is gone now, but the facility's purpose hasn't changed all that much, and you'll still hear laughter. Only the ones entrusted to caregivers now are mostly grandmas and grandpas, not grandchildren.

Adult day care

On Aug. 16, Easter Seals moved its Boardman Adult Day Care (it also has one in Warren) from Market Street to 721 Boardman-Poland Road -- a larger facility with a grassy patio and a growing clientele. "Easter Seals provides an alternative to nursing home placement for the frail elderly, individuals with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and older adults with disabilities," reads the mission pamphlet. Its goal: to give families "much needed relief. …"

The new facility can serve 60, according to Ken Sklenar, president and CEO, Easter Seals of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. The old facility held 20.

When I visited earlier this month, nine people sat around a table and laughed through a balloon volleyball game. Earlier they had stretched their minds by listing occupations alphabetically, coming up with such entries as "farmer, framer, firefighter, fingerprinter, florist and flasher" -- which the players assured me stood for the traffic worker.

Activities change hourly and were designed by staff sociologist Zetta Saunder, the center's certified activity coordinator. Participants exercise, play memory games, do crafts, listen to early-morning readings, and enjoy visits from other groups like 4-H Pet Pals (whose Australian chicken that lays green eggs still draws excited comments). Extra visitors often come for special days.

The day care can keep many from having to go to long-term care facilities. While some are disabled, others are at Easter Seals Day Care to avoid spending the day alone. "Some people are here because we will monitor their meds [medication] and provide a noon meal and snacks. Some think they work here. They're a little confused, and they don't consider themselves participants," said Melissa Potts, day-care coordinator and a registered nurse.

The facility is bright and clean and adapted for its clientele. The outside patio has a swing, chairs, shaded table and a fence, which "makes it good for the wanderers," Sklenar said.

Inside, the floors are speckled, but mostly white because Alzheimer's patients are confused by dark tiles that may seem to be holes. The walls are white with pretty wallpaper borders.

Activity rooms

Activity rooms allow a change of place. One is a music room, another has a chalkboard, and a third is stocked with craft supplies and books. A "quiet space" is furnished with a few comfortable seats. A lone exercise bike sits in one room, with other equipment on the way.

The last room is filled with boxes from the recent move. Someday, Skelnar said, it might be a place where special-needs children can play. An intergenerational facility that brings together grandparents and grandchildren is a dream of this Easter Seals group.

They have other wishes, too: to get adult day-care Medicare approved, to provide occasional showers to clientele, and to get salons to volunteer services in-house. A nicer couch and chair in the quiet area make the list, as do matching chairs for the dining table. Outside storage would keep the patio furniture safe through winter. A shady pagoda outside would make next summer's activities a little cooler.

But all that is in the future. For now, Easter Seals' nationally accredited adult day care is already making a huge difference in the lives of family caregivers and day-care participants for just $3 to $40 a day (based on a sliding scale).

"We encourage people to come here and see the facility," Potts said. "Bring in your loved one for a day to see if they like it."

murphy@vindy.com




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