Adult day centers helping seniors age at home

QUECHEE, Vt. (WCAX) As the baby boomer generation continues to age, experts say caring for the elderly is becoming more of a challenge. Fifteen adult day centers around Vermont are designed to help fill the gaps between home care and full-time nursing facilities. The newest one opened in Quechee in November.

It's game time at the Scotland House in Quechee. John Patterson has been coming here since January and says he looks forward to it. "Playing with volleyball," Patterson said.

The White River Junction man has Parkinson's disease, which also affects his mobility. He uses a walker to help him get around. "I would probably being doing things around the house, the best I could," he said.

"He falls a lot at home, and I just have a really good feeling when he's here. I can go home and relax or I can do errands," said Terri, Patterson's wife of over 50 years and now his primary caregiver. She says she wouldn't have it any other way. "It's very challenging. I never knew how hard it is to be a caregiver."

"I think that it is very hard as a caregiver to admit that you need help. But, when you are at that stage, that is what we are here for," said Scotland House's Gretchen Cole.

The facility provides social and health care services for the elderly who are struggling with cognitive and physical issues. It's similar to a senior center but nurses also provide care with medications, and even hygiene. The nonprofit fills the gap between home care and assisted living. For $17 an hour, participants spend the day and then return home.

"We all want to age in our own home and not have to go into a facility. But as we age, things happen to our memories and our bodies, and so it can become more challenging," Cole said.

Later in the day, animal therapy puts smiles on faces.

The Scotland House is registered with the state and Medicaid covers some of the costs. But officials say they are always looking for more support and that the need for this type of facility is great and is only going to increase.

It's something Gail Dougherty of Woodstock knows firsthand. "You see somebody passing away very slowly in front of your eyes and that is deeply sad," she said.

Her husband has Alzheimers. He's one of the 13 participants who currently comes to the house. They are accepting new guests, but the programs are really for the entire family, especially the caregivers. "I take a class in Woodstock, and I can do that with impunity. I don't worry. And I can go out to lunch with a friend and it recharges me. I don't worry about his wellbeing," Dougherty said.

And she says they both get to keep living exactly where they want -- at home.