Adult day care offers socialization SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

STAYING BUSY, HEALTHY

November 17, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Nora Howard is working her way through several skeins of yarn, knitting colorful pompons. She points proudly to a 300-piece puzzle, which she completed "all by myself." She checks the large calendar, where every day is marked with something to do.

Ms. Howard, 62, the first participant to enroll in the adult day-care service at the Eldersburg Care Center, is filling her days with recreation and socialization.

"I like coming out instead of staying at home," said Ms. Howard, who needs supervision in her daily activities.

While Ms. Howard spends her weekdays at the center, her care-giver for the past 13 years has some free time. The center's staff monitors participants for health and medical problems and helps them enjoy life.

"We are full of trivia," said Lynn Warfield, activity director at the center, which opened last month at the Country Village Shopping Center on Liberty Road. "We celebrate everything with a party, like the 102nd anniversary of the first peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

Reality orientation is a part of the daily routine. "What day is it, Nora?" she asks Ms. Howard.

Ms. Howard answers readily and also notes it will soon be time for her favorite TV program, "The Price Is Right."

Participants can watch a favorite show. They also play their own versions of the games with other participants at the center.

"We discourage continuous TV," said Doris Wagner, staff nurse. "We want our participants to interact. Often, at home, they do little but watch television."

Ms. Howard said she is eager to meet other senior citizens. She especially enjoys her afternoon walks with Ms. Warfield.

"I like to stop for ice cream," she said. "I even found some money on the parking lot."

Participants at the center join structured activities, including low-impact aerobics and discussion groups, while socializing with their peers.

"We opened to accommodate seniors with special needs," said Ms. Wagner, a registered nurse with 20 years of experience in geriatric nursing. "We can provide supervision, socialization and recreation."

Dr. Walter Koppel, an internist who has practiced in Towson and cared for elderly patients for 17 years, often visited Carroll County and found a need for adult day care here. Before he opened the facility last month, he studied the demographics and surveyed area physicians, who agreed with his assessment, he said.

Dr. Koppel said the center offers "companionship, safety and a helping hand with daily needs and activities." It also provides families with an alternative to in-home or nursing-home care.

"It can be so helpful to families who want to keep older members in a home environment," said Ms. Wagner. "Families frequently burn out. Sometimes an older family member is taking care of the oldest. They need a break."

In addition to giving respite to care-givers, the center can also fill the otherwise empty hours many seniors experience as they endure long days alone.

It can make all the difference for the elderly woman who makes her home with her children and grandchildren, she said. When the children are off to work and the grandchildren are off to school, grandmom can have a place to go, too.

"Care-givers often have to get young children and themselves ready to get out the door in the morning," said Ms. Wagner. "They don't have time to plan a full day for an elderly person. We know how to fill those hours."

The center, which has space for 30 participants a day, will have a ratio of one staff member for every five participants. It also provides transportation to its Liberty Road location from Carroll, Baltimore and Howard counties. The staff will accompany participants to doctor's appointments and therapy sessions.

"These elderly people are often alone at home where they become lonely and depressed," said Ms. Warfield. "We help them meet people and get involved with each other and in activities."

The women use words like homey and non-institutional to describe the pale blue and white rooms at the center. The floor plan resembles a home, and flows from living and dining rooms to a kitchen and three baths.

"I was in on the initial planning," said Ms. Wagner. "We designed and reconstructed the space to make it accessible to all and to make it look like a home."

Ms. Warfield details enthusiastic plans for the kitchen, which has a microwave oven and hot plate instead of a stove.

"We'll do snacks and have cooking classes," she said. "The recipes will be relatively simple. Often, we have to reaffirm how to cook with our participants."

A quiet room, furnished with a reclining chair and a bed and shaded with blinds, offers participants time alone.

The center, in operation from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, will have its official opening reception at 2 p.m. Thursday.

"We hope to let the community know we are here and give them an understanding of what adult day care is," said Ms. Warfield. "When people ask me where our nursing home is, I can say that we are quite different from a nursing home."

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