One of the first things Shirley Sisarcik did last summer after becoming the adult day services director for Family Service of the Upper Ohio Valley was request a facelift for the day care facility in Wheeling.
Blue walls are now a light cream; dingy floors were torn up to make way for new carpet and thick vinyl flooring; and burned out or broken lights have been replaced. Cheery, seasonal artwork by clients greets visitors on a large bulletin board and hangs on the kitchen refrigerator. It's not quite like home, but it's close.
"The clients were so excited when they saw it all done," said Sandy Dominguez, Family Adult Day Care Center coordinator, who said the work was completed in December. She, her husband and Sisarcik painted the walls themselves.
Robert Rodak, a client at Family Service Adult Day Care Center in Wheeling, laughs while coloring a picture and
talking with staff and other clients at the center on May 16.
Photo by Betsy Bethel
"I think it's a quiet, calm atmosphere that's homelike," Sisarcik said during a reporter's visit to the center on May 16. "It's very comfortable."
"I think it's great," said client John Kavcar, 65, a one-time Cleveland Browns football player and Vietnam veteran who lives with his sister in Piedmont and attends the center three days a week while she works.
The Adult Day Care Center marked its 26th year in operation in May. It was the first facility in the state of West Virginia to offer respite for family members taking care of spouses, parents or other adults with dementia-related illnesses caused by Alzheimer's, stroke or other maladies. Founder Peggy Baller Everly retired last year, and Family Service named Sisarcik to take over. Sisarcik has 38 years of experience as a registered nurse at Wheeling Hospital. She is in charge of both the day care and all in-home services provided by the nonprofit agency.
Dominguez, who has worked at the day care center for 12 years and at Family Service for 16, was named coordinator after Barbara Sweeney retired last year. The staff includes Terri Morris, Kim Hartung and Della Catlett. At least two and sometimes three or four staff are on duty at all times at the locked-down facility located on the second floor of the HRC Building on 11th Street in downtown Wheeling, Dominguez said. Eleven clients currently attend.
While the in-home services team provides nutrition, personal care, housekeeping, errands and transportation, among other services, to clients who need help with these tasks, the Adult Day Care Center provides a safe, pleasant, activity-filled place for people to go - in most cases to give family members a break from the high demands of caregiving or to allow them to continue to work.
According to a 2008 AARP Public Policy Institute article, more than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability, and 83 percent of those are family caregivers. Family caregivers provide 90 percent of long-term care in the U.S., the Institute on Medicine reported in 2008.
Caregiving takes its toll on the physical and financial health of families. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, half of caregivers reported a decline in their physical health since taking on the role. The out-of-pocket costs per family were, on average, $5,500 in 2007, the AARP states, and about a third of caregivers for someone age 50 and older reduced their work hours or quit their job in 2007.
"By having their loved ones come to day care, it allows family members to continue working or to do errands, etc. This break allows families to remain together and relieves stress," Sisarcik said.
Sisarcik knows the stresses of caregiving firsthand. She retired from her nursing job in order to care for her step-father for seven years.
"I didn't know about this place. ... I could have brought him here and kept working," she said. "It really hit home for me when I was asked to come here. I feel good knowing I'm helping other people because I know what they've been through."
Not all clients live with family. Longtime client Philip Malatinsky, for example, lives in a senior high-rise in Wheeling. His speech and mobility are limited, but he is always ready with a hearty laugh. He spends every weekday at the center, where he enjoys creating artwork using dots he makes with markers or pens because he is unable to move his hand back and forth. After the recent renovations, he presented a colorful picture of a cross to the day care center. His faith, he said, has helped him and he hopes the picture will inspire others.
"It took me 20,650 dots to do this picture," he wrote in a note he titled: "To the newspeople." "I gave this to Family Service Adult Day Care to hang it up on the wall to try to help other people."
Philip said he enjoys attending the center. "We have good family here," he said.
Transportation is provided to clients in Ohio and Marshall counties. Clients receive a light breakfast, a hot lunch and an afternoon snack. During the day, the clients are encouraged to take part in crafts, games and exercises. They can play cards or board games, sing and watch movies. Crafts include foam pictures and cutting up donated greeting cards and then gluing the pictures to the lunch bags provided to those who receive in-home meals.
Music is a big part of their day - a small radio is always on, Sisarcik said. Two clients in particular, John Kavcar and Tom Bresnahan, enjoy dancing - Tom likes to jitterbug and John prefers polkas.
"We try very hard to keep it a fun and homelike atmosphere," Sisarcik said. Added Dominguez: "We care about each other. If someone's not here, they'll say 'Where's so-and-so today?'"
Sisarcik said the center is always looking for groups and individuals to come in and visit with the clients, entertain them or share their hobbies or professions.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Day care services often are covered under various funding sources in West Virginia. The center serves Ohio clients but they mostly pay out of pocket, Sisarcik said. For information, call 304-233-2350.