Facilitator Robert Williamson leads the discussion on hopes for the adult day center, with former county commissioner Warren Watson in the foreground. (photo by Leah Justice)
Facilitator Robert Williamson leads the discussion on hopes for the adult day center, with former county commissioner Warren Watson in the foreground. (photo by Leah Justice)

Group forms to save adult day services

Published 10:53pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

If an ad hoc group of people who met this week have anything to do with it, Polk County’s adult day health center, generally known as adult daycare, will not close its doors.

A meeting was held at the Meeting Place on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to discuss ways to save the center, which is currently being funded by the county through May.

The meeting drew about 20 people interested in finding ways to get more participation.

The discussion was opened by county commissioner chair Ted Owens and Region C Area Agency on Aging Director Laura Lynch. Robert Williamson,
a county consultant, facilitated the meeting.

Rutherford Life Services currently runs the center and announced to county commissioners in November 2013 that they would have to close because the center continues to operate on a deficit. Larry Brown, Rutherford Life Services Director, said Polk’s center brings in approximately $6,000 per month in revenues and it costs approximately $9,000 per month to run the center. He said in order to break even the center would have to average at least 18 participants per day and told commissioners in November that the daily attendance had dropped to between eight and 12 participants per day.

Polk’s life care center director Christy Beddingfield said the most participants they have had in one day is 13.

Beddingfield also detailed the extensive outreach the center has done to get more participants, including talking to churches, visiting potential participant’s homes and being in contact with hospitals, Hospice, doctor’s offices, veteran’s administration and the department of social services (DSS), among others.

Some of the questions at the meeting were how to get more attendance and educate the public as to what the center can do for residents in need.

Some mentioned concentrating on the center’s services that many caregivers have problems providing at home, such as shower facilities and nursing staff.

Beddingfield said giving baths and showers are the hardest thing caregivers have to do at home and that is a big push of the center’s promotion, along with nursing care and the center’s activities.

“(Participants) love being able to eat when they want to,” Beddingfield said. “They love cooking activities and they like to participate in things they used to do.”

Beddingfield said Polk life care does extensive backgrounds on participants to find out what activities each would enjoy. The center has many activities and brings in people and children to sing and has pet therapy. The center has also taken participants on field trips, including a boat tour at Lake Lure last year.

Beddingfield said they had a man who loved racecar driving so they brought a car show to the center.

She said the center has Kay Greene from Tryon First Baptist to come play the piano, people from the library come to read with participants, others come to sing with participants and Scoops ‘n Moore even came to do an ice cream tasting.

While much of the meeting focused on funding sources, the positive programs and services the center offers and what Rutherford Life Services has done to get more participants, many in the group discussed people’s resistance to needing help. Brown said he knew of a gentleman who used to serve on his board of directors, was a career plant manager and a golfer. Pretty soon, his wife had to take him places and he would only come to the center every once in a while. Meanwhile, he’s at home going to the bathroom in the corner, with his wife trying to hide his condition, Brown said.

“That’s the hardest thing to overcome in all of this,” Brown said.

In most cases, Brown said women in particular believe it’s their duty to take care of their husbands, or parents, and they are going to hold out until the absolute bitter end before seeking help.

Meeting Place Director Pam Doty said another piece to this, especially when the caregiver is the spouse is that they have made a lifelong vow to take care of each other.

“There is a cultural bias of allowing someone else to come in and take care of them,” Doty said.

She said there is a strong sense that it is their duty and the caregiver is trying to protect the dignity of their spouse.

“And I have to say this about (Polk Life Services), they do preserve their dignity,” Doty said.

Another topic of discussion was the negative connotations from the general public referring to the center as adult daycare. The center is referred to by Rutherford Life Services as Polk’s life care adult day health center. In short, employees call both the centers in Rutherford and Polk counties “life care.”

Williamson wrapped up the meeting saying it sounds like education is the weakest link.

“There’s some cultural bias and some stigma,” said
Williamson; “some caregivers don’t know they are caregivers. Word of mouth hasn’t worked.”

Williamson said he understands people’s resistance because he had both parents go through similar situations.

“My dad did not want to put my mother in a home,” Williamson said; “he didn’t want any meals delivered to the home.”

Several in the group volunteered for a committee to work on a plan for renewed education efforts for the center. Brown and Beddingfield agreed to lead the committee with Doty, Jane Armstrong, former county commissioner Warren Watson and veteran’s service director Darryl Moore also volunteering.

The group also decided to ask the Polk County Council on Aging to make the center its priority.

The group plans to meet again in two weeks to go over a plan to be drafted by the committee.

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