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Cutting care: SCV Senior Center

SCV Senior Center may have to close the Adult Day Care program

Posted: July 30, 2009 10:32 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Respite aids Bertha Sanchez, standing left, and Alethia Knox, standing center, organize Adult Day Care attendees in a bean bag tossing game at the Santa Clarita Senior Center Adult Day Center on Thursday.

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Cheri Chapman cries when she thinks of life for her husband, Carman Chapman, without the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center Adult Day Care program.

Carman Chapman, 78, of Canyon Country, suffers from Alzheimer's. The disease is eating away at Carman Chapman's cognitive abilities.

As the disease progressed, Carman Chapman started to withdraw and refused to engage Cheri Chapman or other family members.

That was the situation until Cheri Chapman began bringing her husband to the Senior Center.

In the nine months Carman Chapman has attended the Senior Center, the onset of his disease has slowed and he has become more active, she said.

"He can't talk about anything else besides the time he spends here," Cheri Chapman said.

"When he comes here (to the Senior Center), he brings an attaché case with pictures of himself and papers from his old job," she said.

"This is like going to work for him. This is his whole world."

But that is scheduled to come to an end soon.

California's recently passed state budget slashes $6 million statewide from programs like the Senior Center's Adult Day Care program, said Brad Berens, the center's executive director.

While funding for the program is secure through September, Berens said unless the state amends the budget or donations begin to pour in, the day care will cease on Oct. 1.

"We need about $100,000 to keep the doors open," he said.

More than 25 senior citizens pass through the doors of the Adult Day Care program daily. It offers what Berens calls "the end game" for the elderly who use the senior center.

"Seniors start here in their 60s. They participate in the recreational activities and have lunch here. As they age and lose their faculties, the seniors eventually end up in adult day care," he said.

Most of the senior citizens in the program suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's or some other disability that prohibits them from being fully independent, Berens added.

Word of the state budget cuts trickled down to Berens on Tuesday. He reprimanded state legislators for cutting a program already running on a shoestring budget.

"The absurdity of these cuts," he said. "The funding for programs like this is miniscule."

However, the impact on the people in the programs and their families is huge, Berens said.

Private care is not an option
Jeannette Killough, 56, of Canyon Country, used to dress her mother, Elisabeth Buquet, each morning before Killough headed to work.

"I would sit her on the couch and hope she didn't get into trouble while I was at work," Killough said.

Killough started bringing Buquet to the Senior Center and said it provides more than just a place for her mother to stay while Killough is at work.

"She enjoys herself here. There's life going on around here and activities. They engage her here," Killough said.

Without the adult day care program, Buquet will bounce between relatives who will juggle her care and their other commitments, Killough said.

Private day care options are too expensive, she added.

"I pay $425 a month here. Private care is $250 a day," Killough said.

The cheapest private care facilities run $100 a day, a cost out of reach for most families, Berens said.

Killough also refuses to put her mother in full-time assisted living. "I don't want to see her warehoused in a facility without family and friends around," she said.

Buying time
Eileen Kearns can't leave her husband, Kenneth Kearns, 84, unattended for more than a few minutes.

"I can't get anything done with him at home," she said.

Kenneth Kearns suffers from Lewy body dementia, which causes him to have hallucinations and fits.

When Eileen Kearns, 61, of Friendly Valley, brings her husband to adult day care, she buys herself a little freedom.

"I can continue to work" with him at the Senior Center, she said.

The same goes for Lisa Mathews, 40, of Canyon Country, who pitches in for part of the care for her mother, Emily Newman, 63, of Sylmar.

Mathews has three children and works full time. "I would either have to quit or work part time," she said.

Getting nothing in return
"It's extremely stressful to see someone you love turn into a zombie," said Bob Merriman of his wife, Jodi Merriman.

Jodi Merriman is not technically a senior citizen, but her genetic disability, with symptoms similar to Alzheimer's and dementia, make her eligible for the adult day care service, Berens said.

Bob Merriman, 61, of Canyon Country, said people like his wife and others in adult day care have worked their entire lives, paid taxes and deserve something in return in their times of need.

"These people have been functional parts of society their whole lives," said Bob Merriman. "The least we can do is take care of them in the autumn of their lives."

Paying it forward
Alethia Knox, 67, of Canyon Country, served lunch as a Senior Center volunteer before Berens offered her a job and what she calls a way to bank up love.

"I am storing love in the bank to get interest in return when I am too old to take care of myself," she said.

Before Knox can worry about getting too old to take care of herself, she must contend with budget cuts that may cost her her job.
If that happens, money will get tight.

"I will only be able to pay my rent with my Social Security check - nothing else," she said.

Call to action
State lawmakers were in a tight spot when they passed the budget closing a $26 billion deficit, Berens said.

He acknowledges that cuts needed to be made, but said programs for senior citizens and the disabled are the first on the chopping block.

"We live in a youth-orientated culture," he said. "The last things people think about are old people."

And that doesn't bode well as the baby boomers - the country's largest age demographic - get older and need care.

"We were in the midst of growing our program when they announced these cuts," he said.

With the budget passed and the state offering little help, Berens is aiming his pleas for help to residents in the Santa Clarita Valley - specifically, fellow senior citizens.

"I implore all the senior citizens in this community to step up for their peers," he said. Berens said he plans to raise money to keep the program running.

"We'll try to keep it running, come hell or high water."


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