Skyrocketing demand for alternatives to nursing homes in Anne Arundel has prompted Woods Adult Day Care Center to seek $1 million in county and state money to built a second center in Millersville.
But state belt-tightening, which has already squeezed the Severn center and led to months-long waiting lists for some seniors, also could quash the private non-profit agency's plans.
Woods wants to build a $1.2 million, 75-patient center in the Cloverleaf Business Park near Route 3 and Old Mill Road by next spring.
Center officials have consulted with a developer and drafted tentative plans.
Woods, which provides an alternative to nursing homesfor some 80 elderly patients a week, has applied for a $600,000 community development grant from the county and a $400,000 grant from thestate. Woods would take out a mortgage to pay the remaining $200,000.
But the administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer has rejected the request for a state grant.
Nonetheless, with broad support for its proposal from health planners and a majority of Anne Arundel's General Assembly delegation, Woods hopes to revive its bid in the form of an amendment or new legislation at this General Assembly session.
The County Council, meanwhile, is to decide on the request for the $600,000 grant by June.
Of several Arundel adult day-care centers, only Woods receives state money to help pay the tab for those who make too much to be eligible for Medicaid, yet can't pay the day-care bill. About 40 percent of its patients rely on state money to help pay the $41 a day cost.
Schaefer administration spending cutbacks, however, have reduced grant money some 12 percent in the past six months. That, according to Woods officials, will force more seniors to enter nursing homes for a lack of affordable alternatives.
"It's just ludicrous," said Dorothy England, Woods executive director. "Here, everybody says we want to keep seniors out of nursing homes and spend a lot less to keep them home. But if they can't get day care, that's exactly where they wind up -- nursing homes."
Woods, which opened as Arundel's first adult day care in 1975, offers meals, snacks, activities, recreation and some nursing care to seniors on weekdays. In addition, the center offers a respite to those caring for frail seniors at home and allows them to continue working.
Many experts view adult day care as an attractive alternative to nursing homes that allows seniors to continue living in the community, at about a third of the cost of nursing homes.
But demand for day care outpaces the supply, and many, particularly in rural South County, live too farfrom day care and are without transportation.
The lack of affordable alternatives to nursing homes alarms many experts in health care and aging.
In the next two decades, county planners predict, the number of Arundel residents 60 and older will rise about 62 percent, to 90,951. At the same time, the 85-and-over population will mushroom from about 3,000 today to almost 8,000.
Officials say that coping with such rapid growth in the frail elderly will pose a daunting challenge to a long-term care system that experts claim is fragmented, inflexible, uncoordinated and limited by a lack of money.