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Columnist
Adult day care centers serve a vital purpose
By Lee Litas | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 5/13/2008 12:19 AM

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At 95, Yefrem Gorelik of Vernon Hills is still a force to be reckoned with. A dynamic and well-adjusted senior, he and his wife lived an active, full life until her death four years ago.

"We took walks and we took care of each other," said Gorelik, admitting he became very lonely after her passing. Father of busy, professional children, Gorelik did not want to burden them and so spent the last years mostly alone, reading or watching television. "It was not the same as being with people," he said.

Two years ago, the spry 93-year-old found Forever Young Adult Day Services in Wheeling, the largest adult day care center in Illinois. "It supports me. I can socialize with people and it's interesting for me every minute that I am there," said Gorelik who attends the center several days per week now.

According to Dave Vinkler, AARP state affairs liaison, the majority of people in need of such services are simply not aware of their existence. "They don't recognize that this option is out there and think, in fact, that there is no other option but to go to a nursing home. We need to make them aware that the option exists," Vinkler said.

Adult day care centers offer a full spectrum of services from nursing, supervisory, meals and nutritional support, to socialization. Many even provide transportation to and from the facility, making staying at home a viable and cost-effective solution for caregivers.

Regrettably, due to a lack of state funding, such centers are losing on average $35,000 per year. This may not seem like much but it is enough to have seen the closing of nine centers within the last 18 months including Friendship Village in Schaumburg and Presbyterian Homes, which served Wheeling, Arlington Heights and Elk Grove. Sixty-two counties throughout Illinois can't even afford to offer the services.

Assistant Majority Leader, state Rep. Lou Lang, has been a strong supporter of the adult day care issue for years. "I think it should be considered as part of the health care continuum in the state of Illinois (because) in the end it could save the state money. People who are busy and productive, who have friends and have a place to go are healthier and don't become burdens to the state and the taxpayers. So if we can find places for people that don't require for them to be in (state-funded) nursing homes, we can provide a better service to those people who need it and save the taxpayers money," Lang said.

For seniors like Gorelik, the nursing home option is not even a consideration. "As long as I can still walk and dance, it's not for me. And if I ever do need something like that, I can always go to my children," he said, reiterating an option that many consider but one that does not replace the necessity for a nursing component and instead results in additional loss of income tax revenue for the state when the caregiver leaves the work place in order to provide adequate care.

For this reason, advocates like Cindy Cunningham of Adult Day Services Solutions are working to educate legislators on the benefits of these programs and to help garner continued monetary support.

Currently the state pays $7.02 per person, per hour. Cunningham, along with the AARP, is actively campaigning to keep funding for the services included in the current Illinois budget and increase it to $9.02.

"What we get from our centers is that it would help them to sustain themselves and break even and that is all that we are looking for," said Cunningham noting that without it, such centers will close across all of Illinois. "If we can get a decent rate, then maybe we can have an increase in the amount of centers available throughout the state."

To find out more about adult day programs, contact Karen Cripps, legislative chair, at (618) 998-2032. To lend support to AARP's efforts by encouraging legislators to retain the funding proposed in the introduced budget, contact the AARP at 1-888-616-3322.