Guest Opinion: Yolo Adult Day Health Center celebrates 35 years
February 20, 2019
On Thursday, Friends of Adult Day Health Care are scheduled to host a reenactment of opening day at Yolo Adult Day Health Center to celebrate the Center’s 35th Anniversary.
Along with staff and board members, guests include physicians, Dignity Health and Yolo County administrators, elected officials and longtime program supporters who toasted to the Center’s commitment to health, independence and dignity.
Back in the early 1970’s, the idea for the Center was born when a small group of six Davisites came together with concerns about the quality of care for older adults in Yolo County. They were concerned about the quality of care in some skilled nursing facilities and the fact that many residents were in a higher level of care than needed which was impacting the quality of patients’ lives. Also discovered was a lack of community-based options to support frail and disabled adults at home. Determined, they decided to research community-based options for older adults.
Dair Rausch, one of three surviving members along with Myra Gable, and Elizabeth Gustafson, vividly remembers those early days and the goal to “improve the overall quality of life for elders by helping people age in place and prevent premature placement in a nursing homes.” Other members that have since passed included Phoebe McGowan and Pat Scarlett. Under the leadership of then County Health Director Phil Walker, the Health Council recognized the significance of the vision and the Yolo County Elder Care Committee was formed to champion the process. The subsequent work by this small group over a 10-year span, is an impressive story to tell.
Work commenced with a needs assessment, followed by research into best practices to identify the most appropriate course of action. After it was verified that many seniors in nursing homes did not need 24 hour nursing care, site visits were arranged to explore what other communities were doing.
The program that caught their attention was On Lok Senior Health Services in San Francisco where very frail elders in Chinatown were getting nursing home-like support while still living at home in small apartments; many with no elevators. On Lok, which opened in 1970 under the direction of Marie-Louise Ansak, adopted the geriatric day hospital model of care created in the United Kingdom in the 1950s. At the heart of On Lok was a program being piloted in California entitled adult day health care. Adult day health care or ADHC, was exactly what the team was hoping to discover and California was just beginning to roll out the programs. Immediate work began to partner with the California Department of Aging to begin the licensing process. The timing was perfect as the first round of State start-up grants was about to be released.
The need for a new facility to house the community-based day program was readily clear and a major capital campaign commenced. During the planning, it was discovered that the community lacked knowledge around aging and long-term care support which was proving to be a barrier to fundraising success. As such, the vision was expanded to include promoting awareness of geriatric services and describing the poor living conditions and isolation being experienced by many seniors in Yolo County.
An extensive educational campaign was created targeting the medical and nursing home, service organizations, local legislators, various county councils as well as the community at large. To further educate Yolo County residents a series of articles and letters to the editor were published and an informational video was filmed and widely disseminated.
The group even developed a teacher training curriculum to ensure children had the opportunity to learn about aging. Physician champions were particularly helpful, including Dr. Philip Weiler who was a strong proponent of adult day health care; first at the California Department of Health and then at UC Davis Medical Center. It was his assistant, Robin Fine, who was the first director of the Center and key in developing the initial ADHC staff.
It was a time of new awareness for aging services; a local church offered to host an ongoing series of classes for the community, physicians were encouraged to increase the number of senior patients into their practices, medical assistants were educated regarding their crucial roles as patient advocates, podiatrists donated services to those who could not pay, and volunteers were trained to visit persons in nursing homes. It was during this time that Rausch officially established Citizens Who Care in her living room.
Center construction was well underway in 1983 when the six original visionaries decided to organize a separate nonprofit corporation to see the project to its completion and continue to support its efforts going forward through education, advocacy and fundraising. The new organization was named Friends of Adult Day Health Care. They successfully raised over $30,000 to furnish, equip and landscape the Center. In the meantime, while Yolo County would own the building and maintain the program license, Eskaton, a known provider of senior housing in Sacramento, was brought in to manage the program.
This innovative three way partnership remained in place until 1998 at which time Woodland Healthcare, now known as Dignity Health, replaced Eskaton. After over 10 years of hard work and perseverance, in February of 1984, Yolo Adult Day Health Center opened its doors for the first time and would always be known as the first built-to-purpose adult day health center in California.
Now in its 35th year, the Center continues to provide a day program for frail and disabled adults that includes nursing, rehabilitative therapies, and social services as well as a nutritious meal, socialization, activities, caregiver support and transportation to and from the center. The space has been expanded three times over the years and specialized programs have been develop to better serve individuals with dementia, traumatic brain injury and psychiatric diagnoses. And, true to its mission, Friends continues to generously support the Center via a monthly donation, purchasing accessible vans, buses and therapy equipment and funding innovative pilot programming. Ten years ago, Friends spearheaded a major remodel to brighten up the 1980’s décor. In a multitude of big and little ways, the work that started so many years ago continues today.
The spirit of innovation remains a strong component of the Center but the staggering aging demographics has the Center operating at capacity with a current waiting list of over 60 individuals. As a response, the three way partnership that built the Center three decades ago, Friends of Adult Day Health Care, Yolo County and Dignity Health, has come back together to find a new space; a space large enough to address the community needs for the next 35 years.
Friends of Adult Day Health Care is proud of its history and the success of the program. The board remains motivated by a strong commitment to holistic, person-centered, high quality community-based support for elders and individuals with disabilities. Their work is made possible by the support and interest of the community; it’s what built the Center 35 years ago and it will be what leads us to next opening day in the near future.
Deborah Francis is a board member of the Friends of Adult Day Health Care. Dawn Myers is executive director of Yolo Adult Day Health Center. She can be reached at 666-8828. A more complete guest opinion can be read online at dailydemocrat.com