Adult Day Stay Gives Sense of Purpose, Community

Joey Jacobson of Bigfork knew her mother Marie needed a little extra help.

She was living on her own in an apartment, but had moderate dementia. It was then that Marie started going to the Bigfork Valley Day Stay Program.

“If it hadn’t been for Day Stay, I would have had to work part-time to be able to care for her,” said Jacobson, a nurse educator at Bigfork Valley. “It saved my sanity, and helped with guilt. It gave me hope that we would make it through this.”

The Adult Day Services program in Bigfork offers a safe, supportive environment for people ages 18 and older who don’t require 24-hour care, but have trouble living on their own due to physical or mental disability.

The program has garnered years of support from the United Way of 1000 Lakes.

Photograph by Christina Monson

“The United Way keeps programs like Adult Day Stay open,” said Jacobson. “We live in a rural area and a lot of these folks would be alone in the country for days on end. It is a good service for families wrestling with what to do with their loved one who is still independent, but needs some extra help. I don’t know what we would have done without it.”

Jacobson’s mom would attend Adult Day Stay several days a week for the next four years. A few years later, her mother-in-law would also use the service.  Both women would eventually end up living in one of the senior living communities within the Bigfork Valley campus— Jacob-son’s mom in long-term care, and her mother-in-law in the senior assisted-living apartments.

“When it came time to go to the nursing home, Mom made the transition really easily,” said Jacobson. “At the end of Day Stay, they walked her down to her new room. It was peaceful be-cause she was already so used to the building and the people. It went better than I ever could have dreamed.”

Jacobson said Day Stay kept her family independent much longer than if the service wasn’t available.

“It is a fantastic program with fantastic people,” Jacobson said. “They don’t treat people like clients there. It’s like a family. I would visit my mom and she would tell me how much fun she had and wished it were every day. It gave her purpose. For me, it took away a lot of the worry.”

Participants in the Day Stay program can receive assistance with personal care, managing medications, shopping, and medical appointments. They socialize with others and participate in music, games, gardening, and other activities. Participants also receive a healthy meal and two snacks each day they attend.

“While we can help with medical needs and personal care, we’re really a social program more than anything,” said Barb Rahier, program coordinator of Adult Day Services at Bigfork Valley. “We try to do things that are fun. We do outings like going to garage sales, picnics, or fishing. We’ve gone to the casino and to shows at the Edge Center for the Arts. We interact with the children at the day care here. We garden and play games and do crafts. We try to find out what people are interested in that they haven’t been able to do, but would do if they had help.”

Bigfork Valley’s Adult Day Stay program offers transportation to participants in the isolated corners of the Bigfork Valley region.

“That transportation piece is a huge help to people and their families,” Rahier said. “They would have no other way of getting here.”

The United Way of 1000 Lakes helps support the transportation piece. Grants from the United Way provide scholarships to the Day Stay program as well as the ability to try a free day of the program.

“How do you show people what it’s like and then ask for $80?” said Rahier.  “That’s a lot of money to people when they’re not sure about it. With the United Way’s help, we can offer the first day free.  It’s a chance for prospective clients and their families to come for the day and see what’s it like.”

Nearly everyone who tries it sees the benefit, Rahier said. Once enrolled, participants get help paying for the program through Itasca County Social Services, the Veteran’s Administration or through private insurance. For those who don’t meet those criteria, the United Way helps cover the cost.

“I don’t know what we would do without the support of the United Way,” said Rahier.  “There’s no where else for people to go.  It would be so tough.”

The United Way of 1,000 Lakes provides funding for several organizations that support the Itasca County region’s aging population, including Bigfork Valley Adult Day Stay, ElderCircle and the Home Visitors program.