ELDERSBURG - A new van and station wagon at the South Carroll Adult Day Care Center will bring in more seniors who need the service but didn't have a ride.
The shortage of transportation, however, was just one obstacle the center has faced in increasing enrollment to the 20 people a day for which it is licensed, said Peggy Sheeler of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, the non-profit agency that opened the center in February 1989.
"We have a couple more hurdles to go, but we're over one hurdle," Sheeler said.
The center now has between nine and 15 clients there on a given day, said nurse Doris Wagner, with a total of 17 enrolled. The new van and wagon have allowed six clients to begin or continue attending, she said.
For Myrtle Frebertshauser, 78, the new van means she can go more often to the center, which keeps her from being isolated and gives a break to her brother, Thomas, 76, who cares for her at their Westminster home, said Luanne Frebertshauser, their sister-in-law.
Clients usually have some trouble caring for themselves alone because of the effects of a stroke, Alzheimer's disease or the frailty that comes with age.
One remaining hurdle to increasing enrollment, Sheeler said, is educating spouses and adult children who are caring for aged loved ones in how the center can help them.
"People feel as if they should take care of their own and never ask for help," Sheeler said.
In fact, the center can help families keep their aging relatives out of nursing homes for two to three years longer than if they were just cared for at home 24 hours a day, Sheeler said. But families still resist sending people to day care until they become desperate, and the senior is just months away from needing a nursing home.
"It is not a baby-sitting service," Sheeler said of the center.
In addition to contact with others, the seniors receive exercise and help from physical therapists.
Before getting the van, the center paid for taxis and the Carroll Transit System. But Sheeler said that became expensive and the services weren't always able to accommodate the center's schedule.
The seniors who go to South Carroll Adult Day Care pay a sliding fee based on their income, Sheeler said. The maximum rate is $42 a day, but can be much lower or even paid entirely by Medicaid in some cases, Sheeler said. The rates include transportation.
The van, which cost $28,980 and can handle up to two wheelchairs with a lift, was paid for through a $17,075 state grant just approved by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Money from state and county health and aging departments and an anonymous private foundation paid the balance, as well as the station wagon cost.
Even with the new van and a station wagon purchased a month ago, the center may find it can't serve some of the far northern and western areas of the county because of its location in Eldersburg, Sheeler said.
State regulations prohibit them from keeping a client on a van for more than 1 hours, she said.