Adult day care center gives caregivers some time out

An aptly titled book, "The 36-hour Day," details the rigors of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or related conditions.

Miller's Place, an adult day health care center in Modesto, gives caregivers a break for at least several hours a week.

Becky Trabucco of Riverbank said the respite is good for her father and her own well-being.

"It's so wonderful to have a place where he can have companionship," she said. "It gives me days where I don't have to fix him breakfast and lunch. I can do my shopping, and he has a good time here."

The center at 730 McHenry Ave. has provided day care for clients with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia for 17 years. An even larger portion of the center is devoted to adults who have other physical or mental impairments and require assistance with daily living.

The center is operated by the DMC Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to health education and services.

Foundation officials said there's a growing need for respite care in Stanislaus County. According to the Alzheimer's Association, a case of the brain-wasting disease is diagnosed every 72 seconds in the United States.

It's stressful caring for a spouse or parent who is steadily declining from the disease, which is marked by short-term memory loss. And having res-pite time allows caregivers to take care of themselves and avoid health problems related to stress, experts say.

Program Director Joanne Lyions believes Miller's Place serves only a small percentage of the Modesto-area residents who could use assistance.

The adult day health care, which serves as many as 50 clients from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., has an average daily attendance of 38. The area for people with Alz- heimer's disease is licensed for 19 clients, while average attendance is 11 per day. The service runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"We believe there are a lot of people who are taking care of people who don't know we are here," said Ellyn Brannon, marketing director for the DMC Foundation. "Sometimes, it is hard for families to admit they need assistance."

Medi-Cal pays fees for most

Most of the adult day care clients live with family members, but about 25 percent live in board and care homes. The majority are frail seniors who suffer from ailments such as Parkinson's disease, have suffered strokes or are recovering from cancer.

They spend the day at the center working on crafts, socializing and doing other healthful activities. Some enjoy petting the house poodle, Alaska, and others work on exercise equipment to strengthen their legs or improve dexterity.

Medi-Cal pays the fees for about 95 percent of those in adult day health care, Brannan said. A few other clients are charged the private-pay fee of $74 a day.

The respite care fee for Alzheimer's patients is $35 a day and usually is paid out of pocket by caregivers.

The Alzheimer's patients congregate in a quiet, separate area. A noisy environment tends to overstimulate their senses and can make them agitated, staff said.

Trabucco said her 83-year-old father, Everett Taylor, enjoys an activity in which patients discuss a current topic, such as Veterans Day, or they reminisce.

Although victims of the disease lose short-term memory, they can remember events ear-lier in their lives.

"By spending the day here, I get out of my daughter's hair," said Taylor, who is in the middle stage of Alzheimer's. "This is beautiful for a bunch of old fogies who have nothing to do."

Time for B-I-N-G-O

Things got pretty lively Tuesday when the clients played bingo. Bob Johnson, 82, of Mo-desto seemed to enjoy sitting next to assistant Susan Miller as she called the numbers.

His wife, Barbara Johnson, joked that he doesn't care to play games at home.

"I try, but he doesn't want to play with me," she said. "He likes the younger ones."

During his career, Bob Johnson was in quality management for Campbell Soup, dressing for work every day in a white shirt and tie. Barbara Johnson said she now struggles to get him to wash his hair and shave every morning. She misses being able to have meaningful interaction with her husband, whether it's sharing family news or talking about a recent spat with the bank.

His habit of repeating questions wears her down, she said. Within a half-hour Sunday, he asked her 15 times who was coming to his birthday party.

Trying to add a van

Caregivers such as Johnson and Trabucco said the $35 daily fee is a bargain, since the average cost of a home health worker is $17 an hour. To keep the program affordable, it also is supported through a grant and other DMC Foundation funding.

The foundation hopes to buy a second van to provide more transportation to and from the center for people living in Turlock, Oakdale, Riverbank and other outlying communities such as Patterson and Newman.

The Credit Bureau Foundation awarded a $20,000 matching grant in March toward the purchase of a van with a wheelchair lift. The DMC foundation has raised $12,000 and needs $8,000 more to buy the $40,000 van.

Brannan said families in outlying communities have expressed interest in using the services at Miller's Place, but the lack of transportation is an obstacle.

Miller's Place is at 730 McHenry Ave., Modesto. Phone: 527-3412. For more information on the van project, contact Jeanie Miller at 527-3412 or jmiller@dmcf.org.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be contacted at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.