Adult care grows to fill gap in services
by Patrick McCreless
Sep 20, 2012 | 5635 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Clients and staff have fun in the game room at Family & Friends Adult Day Health Care. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Clients and staff have fun in the game room at Family & Friends Adult Day Health Care. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
OXFORD — Because of short-term memory loss, Teresa Peebles’ mother cannot be left alone. However, leaving the nearly-90-year-old woman at home with a caregiver is not much of an option, either.

“She has always been very active, gardening and she loved to travel,” said Peebles, who lives in Anniston. “This memory loss has taken so much from her … she is not very happy at home watching TV or sitting at home doing nothing.”

But that was the way things were until Peebles learned about Family and Friends Adult Day Health Care in Oxford. Located in a light blue house on Snow Street, the facility houses senior citizens every day, providing care, activities and social interaction.

“It makes all the difference for the both of us,” Peebles said of the facility. “There is no downside — they have been a blessing in our lives.”

Family and Friends is part of a growing industry of part-time care-giving facilities for seniors and disabled adults who cannot afford or do not want to live in nursing homes. And to some health experts, the need for such facilities will only continue to grow as the population ages.

Two nurses and former nursing-home workers, Robin Bonner and Tabatha Best, opened the facility in July last year after seeing a need in the community.

“We had been working in nursing homes for years and started talking about the need for this,” Bonner said.

“We saw people in nursing homes who did not necessarily need to be there.”

Best agreed that some of the nursing home patients they treated needed a different environment.

“Some of them were young … some were able to do some things for themselves,” Best said.

At the facility, Bonner and Best care for about 15 patients every day. However, other patients will be dropped off sporadically and can increase that amount to 25 patients a day.

“And we’re still accepting new patients,” Bonner said. “We take full-time and part-time.”

Inside the facility, it’s hard to tell it’s a business. Family pictures adorn the walls and there is plenty of furniture that a visitor would expect to see in an old house.

“We left it in a home setting instead of having it look institutional, so people would feel comfortable,” Bonner said.

Inside, patients are provided home-cooked lunches and snacks and can watch television, read books and talk to each other. Patients also play games and other activities and receive regular exercise. The facility also periodically provides outdoor activities, such as visits to Quintard Mall or Mount Cheaha.

And because Bonner and Best are nurses, they can provide basic medical care. Bonner said they are licensed to give patients medication and check blood pressure and vital signs. The two can also communicate with a patient’s doctor if necessary.

Based on her 15 years of nursing experience, Bonner said, the need for Family and Friends and other facilities like it will continue to grow.

“There is a big need, especially with everybody getting older,” she said. “Especially with the number of baby boomers, we’ll need more facilities.”

Andrew Duxbury, a geriatrician at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, agrees with Bonner that more adult day care centers will be needed in Alabama in the future.

“The need is becoming more commonplace as there are more and more individuals being cared for by adults that aren’t at home full time,” Duxbury said.

Duxbury said there are two kinds of adult day care in the state: those that simply provide a safe environment for seniors to stay and those that also provide medical care, like Family and Friends.

“But there is very little of that in the state because of financing,” Duxbury said.

He said Medicaid and Medicare do not currently provide funding for medical day care facilities.

“Medicaid in Alabama is woefully under-funded and does not provide for long-term care service outside skilled nursing facilities,” Duxbury said.

Bonner said her business currently accepts payments from Veterans Affairs insurance and long-term, private insurance.

“Medicare and Medicaid doesn’t pay for anything at all,” she said.

Duxbury noted, however, that there is a movement in the medical community to encourage funding from Medicaid for such day care services, due to the growing need and because they are usually cheaper than full-time nursing homes.

“Community care is cheaper than nursing care when you add it all up,” Duxbury said.

For more information about Family and Friends or to make an appointment, call 256-405-4274.

Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star

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