MODESTO — I love the elderly. Then again, I was practically raised with them. I have volunteered at Miller's Place since I was 10. I am a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, but I always volunteered when I returned home to Modesto.
My grandmother had Alzheimer's disease. When she moved in with my family, we started taking her to Miller's Place. My mom began volunteering and was soon hired. My grandmother was with us for five years before she died, and I saw what the disease did to her and how much Miller's Place helped her and us.
Miller's Place was a day care center for the elderly, most of whom have Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, dementia, etc. Growing up there I saw a colorful cast of characters, but I also saw what the aforementioned diseases did to people. When you have a loved one, you often don't realize how much they are deteriorating because you're with them daily. Since I volunteered during school breaks, I saw the marked differences in the participants.
One summer a participant would converse with me, remember my name and remember all the trials and tribulations of a 10-year-old. They were a wealth of stories and information. At winter break, they would barely remember my name and little about me. At spring break, they wouldn't remember me at all. but I'd play games with them and they would get to know me all over again. I remembered which games they liked, but soon, they would not be able to play.
They became a part of my family. I'd send letters and pictures to the center. I saw participants from the beginning having fun. I saw them decline. I signed condolence cards and went to memorial services.
Regardless of what they remembered, they had fun and received care. They took their medication on time; they had snacks and a full meal every day. Miller's Place would always find a way to ensure that the participants had access to whatever game or activity they wanted. I saw the triumph that participants had when they learned some new activity or craft, and I saw how proud they were of how much they had learned soon to be forgotten. Some of the participants also attended because they needed physical therapy, and a select few went just to socialize and-or get out of the house.
Miller's Place was something for the elderly to look forward to, but the center also had a great impact on their families. Families, including my own, received vital resources names of caring doctors, legal information, help navigating health care and emotional support.
I'm writing in the past tense because Miller's Place is no more. There were more than 100 participants and they all came on different days. On paper this was a nonprofit. The profit was in how much it helped people. The last two years have been difficult for Miller's Place, but it weathered the turmoil of three potential shutdowns by fund- raising and grant writing. Everyone wanted the center to stay open, regardless if they were paid or not. Sadly, this is the end of the road.
This isn't an ode to Miller's Place; this is an ode to adult day care centers. Miller's Place is just one casualty among many. According to The New York Times and medicare.gov, these centers keep the elderly out of nursing homes. According to medicareadvocacy.gov, one out of three people admitted to a nursing home die within one year.
There will be no more laughter, no more hugs and no more help. Soon, most of those participants won't be with us and others will have nowhere to go. Miller's Place was a respite. It was the reason loved ones weren't dying in a nursing home. According to sfgate.com, the budget cuts reduced the original $170 million to $78 million.
Goodbye, Miller's Place. Goodbye, our Californian elderly. You matter to me, but I know that that's not enough. Maybe one day people will care, but will that day be too late for you and me?