When dementia took away Janis Stauder’s father’s independence, it left her with an opportunity and a passion to help others find an alternative to nursing home care.
Stauder quit her job as a legal assistant and office manager at a law firm to take care of her father, Joe. When his condition progressed beyond her or her family’s ability to help, they began to search for professional care.
“My father developed Alzheimer’s and had it for about seven years,” Stauder said. “So we took over the care. It was just him and I, so he didn’t have any other family that was going to take care of it. We became inseparable. We kind of looked around for some day cares, but we really didn’t find anything that was appropriate for what we needed. So it was a very long, arduous process.”
This personal journey has led her to develop a local adult care center, which is anticipated to open by November. Named for her father, Joe’s Place, at 1032 Hartman Lane in O’Fallon, will be one for adults of all ages dealing with memory loss or other needs that require daily supervision.
Stauder said she learned about the services provided to senior citizens like her father and found the industry lacked efficient care for those dealing with the various stages of memory loss.
“We went to memory care facilities, and I was very involved and was there almost every day and I was with him,” she said. “So I got to see the industry. I got to see what’s out there for people who have different forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s not just Alzheimer’s alone. The memory issues that they go through and the things they have to deal with are very ranged. So there’s a lot out there that has to be addressed. And I saw how things worked and I realized the things that I liked and that I didn’t like. And I realized there’s a huge gap in care between home care and nursing home. They don’t necessarily need to go to nursing home. There are early stages when you can care for them. And so we want to bridge that gap.”
Necessity also brought Florence Gwinn into the senior care industry two decades ago. Gwinn had been working at her family’s meat processing plant, Holten Meat Co. in Sauget, when her mother suffered a stroke and suddenly needed daily care. But the care givers she found were not always reliable.
“We had round-the-clock nurses aides, and they would steal from us when no one was there and she had no interaction with people,” Gwinn said. “She knew what was going on, but she couldn’t talk, but she understood. So something like this would have been so good for her to be out with other people. That’s why I started it.”
Gwinn initially opened Golden Years Adult Day Care Center in Bellevue Plaza in Belleville in 1995. Ten years later, she built and opened her own building nearby at 7 44th St., where she provides, meals, games and activities that help keep local seniors active.
“It was very new 20 years ago,” she said. “A friend of mine mentioned it and because of my mother and the issues that she had and me trying to pay for them to all work full time, I thought it would be a great idea.”
Along with a friend who was a registered nurse, Gwinn filled out the paper work to be a licensed day care provider. Her business is regulated by the Illinois Department on Aging, and she reapplies for certification every three years. She also has a contract with the Veterans Administration to provide care for veterans.
Teresa Johnson has witnessed the rise of adult day care centers across the country. As the managing director of the National Adult Day Services Association, she has read research emphasizing this growing demand.
One is a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which found about 8 million Americans in 2012 sought service from one of 4,800 adult day services located throughout the nation. These day care centers competed with 15,700 nursing home and 22,200 assisted living residential communities.
The adult day services sector has changed in the past 30 years that Johnson has worked in the industry. She said while the number of these care centers has grown, the people receiving care still need more specialized or specific needs. She also said the number of regulations has increased and has lead to a need for additional funding.
“While interest and utilization have increased, the amount of public funding for adult day services has not kept pace with the demand,” Johnson said. “Some programs, such as the federal Money Follows the Person, are starting to make allowances that redirect people to home and community-based services, as opposed to a system that favors residential care, when it is not necessarily needed or preferred.”
The Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration Grant was established to help states rebalance their Medicaid long-term care systems. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 strengthened and expanded the program to more states, of which both Illinois and Missouri participate.
Johnson said in general, those in need of daily care prefer to receive services in their own homes and communities.
“Supporting state and federal policies that enable people to receive services at home allows tax dollars to be spent most efficiently as adult day centers supplement the care being provided by family caregivers,” she said.
Stauder specifically designed her new 5,400-square-foot Joe’s Place to not resemble a medical center or nursing home, but a place where her clients will feel right at home.
“We have a beautiful building,” she said. “It’s really an open concept. We set it up basically for wonderers. Those with dementia and Alzheimers’s, they wonder constantly. So we have a big open central area that they can just walk. We have a huge sun room in the back, and we have a back covered porch with rocking chairs. So we’re trying to hone in and give them a home-like atmosphere. That’s what I was really going for.”
Joe’s Place will also provide activities and therapy through walking and gardening. Staff will include a licensed practical nurse and two pet therapists who will provide social interaction for clients with cats and dogs. Bathing and transportation will also be provided.
Gwinn has also tried to create a “home-like environment” at Golden Years Adult Day Care in Belleville with all of the comforts of home, from the couches and chairs that sit in the large living room space to the country shutters she chose to frame all of the windows outside.
“The clients are so thankful they’re not in nursing homes and it’s a very rewarding job,” she said. “They tell me how happy they are to be here.”
O’Fallon resident Peggy Kachadorian said she has enjoyed the social interaction and activities since she began coming to Golden Years about a year ago.
“They play games to make us think more clearly, and we love doing that,” Kachadorian said. “It’s good for senior citizens to stay active.”
After Dewey Williams suffered a stroke, he found himself more relegated to his Belleville home. The 67-year-old said Golden Years have helped change that.
“It took me out of my house,” he said.
“I get to get out and be with people,” said Kathy Eisemann, a 73-year-old client from Belleville.
“The reason I like coming here is because we have a nice owner, and we have friends here and they play games,” said 81-year-old Belleville resident Alice May Hunter. “I have made friends here. We also have parties. I don’t have to stay home all of the time. I can come here and enjoy myself.”
Gwinn said bringing these people together under one roof creates an integral social component that her clients otherwise lacked.
“It’s just a very positive environment,” she said. “I took it out of the nursing home, out of the hospital and put it in my own building here.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.