Adult day services marks milestone with pancake breakfast

Published in the October 24 – November 6, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Muriel, who turned 95 Oct. 9, enjoys petting Lady Grace, who was brought to the center by Jennifer Rose with Furry Friends.
Photo by Robert Airoldi

To keep minds sharp, the seniors at Live Oak Adult Day Services play trivia games. It helps those experiencing memory loss who feel their mental abilities are diminishing when they struggle to remember recent events.

Recalling fun facts from days gone by can give these Gilroy residents a confidence boost, said Cheryl Huguenor, the center’s the program director.

Another weekly highlight for the seniors at LOADS is Bad Joke Friday. It may elicit a few groans, but it’s intended to make the day fun. Who doesn’t need a bad joke to kick off the weekend?

Groans aside, that lighthearted spirit carries over to the employees and volunteers as well.

“This is a fun place to be,” Huguenor said. “Some people might think that working with seniors is depressing, and there are some difficulties. But I spend all day dancing and laughing. All day, every day, it’s easy to find someone who needs a smile or a hug. There aren’t a lot of jobs like that.”

Live Oak Adult Day Services has provided invaluable resources for families looking to keep their senior members engaged and safe. They celebrated their 25th anniversary with an open house, entertainment, tours, and, of course, cake for all Oct. 16.

Huguenor has served as the program director at LOADS since it opened in 1993. She loves her job helping families with seniors who need a place to stay during the day.

“We hear all the time that our program has been a lifesaver for people,” she said, talking about the challenges of dealing with an aging parent or spouse. “Sometimes a senior can wander at night, or a caregiver just needs a break. It can be overwhelming, and this is a nice alternative. We try to be as supportive to the family as we can, and we help them find other resources they might need.”

The term “day care” often evokes images of children. But South Valley is home to a growing senior population. That makes it crucial for families to find convenient, nearby services for elderly loved ones who might need social stimulus but aren’t ready for full-time or residential care.

LOADS offers sliding scale fees, based on income. And it is the only adult day care center in the region, with participants from Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Martin, and surrounding areas.

For six hours Mondays through Fridays starting at 9 a.m., adults older than 60 can come to the site on Sixth Street in Gilroy and enjoy a healthy breakfast, engage in exercise and fun activities, get a hot lunch, socialize with other seniors, staff, and volunteers, and even munch on an afternoon snack before going home.

Activities are planned with fun and safety in mind. Seniors participate in a sit-down exercise session each day, which can be done from a wheelchair. The movements are intended to help with balance, soothe depression or anxiety, and ease arthritis pain. “It’s a mood lifter to be in a group with a great teacher and wonderful music,” Huguenor said.

Other activities include art, music, crafts, games, visits from schoolchildren and puppies.

The center brings in a variety of guest speakers to talk about a variety of topics. “We’ve had amazing community support from volunteers, musicians, and lots of wonderful people who share their talents,” Huguenor said. “We’ve been so lucky.”

Muriel, 95, who visits the center three days a week, said she enjoys the other seniors.

“I like when we play games and the fellowship,” she said.

Ninety-year-old Pedro echoed her sentiment.

“It’s nice and friendly here,” he said while petting a puppy brought to the center by Jennifer Rose with Furry Friends. “I like the people.”

LOADS has had very low staff turnover. Like Huguenor, Assistant Program Director Gloria Martinez-King has also worked there since the very beginning.

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The consistency that results from seeing the same faces among the staff and volunteers can have a calming effect on seniors who may be struggling with physical ailments, as well as dementia and other memory issues. Those familiar faces and engaging activities at LOADS become part of a new routine.

Recently, a client with memory issues walked in, sighed, and said, “I feel like I’m home.” For Huguenor, that means she’s accomplished her goal of giving seniors a place where they feel safe and secure. “That’s what you want to hear,” she said.

At the core of the center is a deep respect for the seniors who visit. Many are veterans who tend to bond with each other. When Huguenor first started, there were several World War II veterans. Now, it’s more common to find Vietnam vets.

“These are people who have lived wonderful, amazing lives,” Huguenor said. “They’ve survived wars, and we want them to walk in the door and feel safe and secure. We treat them with dignity and respect. After 25 years, it’s one of those jobs where you know you’re making a difference in someone’s life every day.”

 

Donna Lane

Donna Lane

Donna Lane is a storyteller and San Jose native who earned her journalism degree at San Francisco State University. She lives in Gilroy with her family, who inspire her to celebrate life each day.
Donna Lane