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SCV Senior Center program in distress

Adult Day care provides a human touch

Posted: November 29, 2009 10:19 p.m.
Updated: November 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Carman Chapman, a 55-year-old Canyon Country resident, sings along to a song at the Adult Day Care at the SCV Senior Center in Newhall on Tuesday.

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Dancing. Singing. Origami. Bingo. There's never a dull moment during the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center's Adult Day Care program, which opens its doors to seniors and the disabled Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Last week, there were Thanksgiving crafts and a simultaneous sing-along to "Oh! Susannah" and other patriotic ditties, with the lyrics displayed on a large flat-screen television in the back. Not that this crowd needs them. Most of the fifteen or so attendees know the songs by heart and belt them out with gusto.

"Activity helps keep them alive and gives them something to look forward to," said volunteer Judy Beyer, a retired registered nurse who can be found helping out at the day care every other day. "We must keep this program going. It's all some of these people have."

Since local government funding was cut from the program in July 2009, daily donations of $30-$35 have transitioned from voluntary to required, according to program director Gladys Ehrhardt. Comparable day care programs in the Santa Clarita Valley cost $65-$95 per day, Ehrhardt said.

Still, their future is precarious.

"Right now, we're just hanging on. We don't know what's going to happen next week," Ehrhardt said.

Alternatives to the program for most of her clients are grim, as Ehrhardt illustrated.

"Most of them will probably stay home. That's a problem for their caregivers, usually daughter or sons who have to work and can't afford live-in help," she said. "Many of our clients would be in danger. Without supervision, they can wander or walk off. They can't cook for themselves or change their diapers. We offer all that here."

Every Tuesday, Ehrhardt meets with her staff, which includes a registered nurse and trained respite care workers, to determine each client's needs and tailor activities based on their cognitive abilities; many of the day care clients suffer from Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

Generally, two dozen clients partake in the program each day. Breakfast is provided in the morning and clients are taken to the center's bustling dining room for lunch.

"Most importantly, we give them love and care," Ehrhardt said. "We give a lot of hugs and kisses."

Sibyl Youell, 91, of Canyon Country, comes to the program at least three days a week. She's sharing a table with three women, including Julia Jay, who recently turned 100, laughing and talking as they assemble elements to create a craft-paper turkey.

When she's not at day care, Youell, who lives with her daughter, tends to do solitary tasks such as reading and puzzles. She finds the social interaction shared here vital.

"When you're my age, you need to be around other people. As old as I am, there are not too many years left to do that," Youell said. "I just like being around people. I enjoy everyone here."

Carman Chapman, of Newhall, who stated his age as 55 with the caveat said, "I can't remember anymore" Thursdays, when the clients partake in a dancing class, as his favorite days.

Like Youell, Chapman lives with his child, a son, in Valencia. The center's bus picks Chapman up in the morning, takes him to day care and drops him back home.

The retired engineer recently finished an impressive cross-stitch bearing his name while at day care.

"I tried to make it as lovely as possible. People have complimented me on this piece and that makes me feel good," Chapman said. "It's the interface with people that I like more than anything else."

That sense of camaraderie is shared by staff and volunteers, who look upon their clients, many of whom are retired military personnel or teachers, with utmost respect and affection.

"My job is very rewarding," Ehrhardt said. "I've been doing this for two years and it just makes me so happy to see them smile, to watch them reminisce over old songs, to play music and dance."

The possibility of the senior center's day care closing is too much for Beyer to bear.

"I completely love it here. I just can't put it into words," she said as she surveyed the scene with a smile. "There are huge industries and companies in this town who have to know, so they can help. We can't stop day care at the senior center. It's not an option."

For more information on day care at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, call (661) 259-9444 or visit www.scvsc.org. To donate, make checks payable to the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center and mail to 22900 Market Street, Newhall, 91321 - write "Adult Day Care" in memo line.

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