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Bainbridge site is Kitsap County ‘flagship’ for adult day care

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Islander Maggie Mackey doesn’t walk or speak, but for the last five years she has found a social outlet among the group of regulars at Elder and Adult Day Services in Bremerton.

The 26-year-old’s mother Sheri Ley-Mackey, said the day program for seniors and developmentally disabled adults has given Maggie a life outside the family home, while giving Sheri and her husband time to themselves in the afternoon.

“It’s community for her,” Sheri said, “And it’s been really wonderful for us, and allowed us to have Maggie at home.”

Maggie is one of nine participants from Bainbridge, and 19 from North Kitsap, who travel to the Bremerton branch of EADS. She spends up to three hours a day on a Kitsap Transit Access bus to reach the EADS building.

Beginning this fall, Maggie will have a much shorter trip.

EADS staff are preparing to move their Bremerton operation to a new building in the Sportsman Park Business Complex on Bainbridge. When the new branch opens in October, it will roughly double EADS’ capacity in Kitsap County, and the group is already enrolling participants.

“This is our flagship,” EADS Executive Director Jan Nestler said last week, as she surveyed the new Bainbridge building. “This is the one all the other centers will be modeled after.”

The Bellevue-based non-profit agency, founded by Nestler in 1984, already has centers in Bellevue, Des Moines, Issaquah and Bremerton, and wants to expand to other Northwest communities.

EADS is the only group in Kitsap County certified by the state to offer daytime care for adults. Its service includes activities and therapy for seniors and developmentally disabled adults, while allowing them to live at home. Just as important, it offers respite for overworked caregivers.

The service is one many find either unavailable or unaffordable in the private sector.

Two-thirds of the roughly 36 steady participants at the Bremerton Branch qualify for Medicaid or other subsidies, which cover most of the cost of their care at EADS. Donations make up the difference.

EADS staff say demand in Kitsap County has long overwhelmed the capacity of the Bremerton center.

The branch holds two four-hour sessions each day, a morning session for elders and an afternoon session for younger adults.

On a Thursday morning in Bremerton about 15 older-adult participants from across Kitsap County trickle into the downtown center, located just a few blocks from the ferry landing. Most come by Kitsap Transit Access buses, while some are dropped off by caregivers.

At 9 a.m. they gather for a “coffee social,” and an EADS staff member reads articles from the morning newspaper out loud, prompting discussion on current events. After an hour, the participants troop into the center’s living room for aerobics, then some break away to play a memory game with cards, while others stay to practice hand-eye coordination, throwing rubber darts at pales on the floor. Some days they paint with water colors, go on picnics or visit the nearby Kitsap Regional Library branch.

In the afternoon the elders are replaced by younger adults, who join in more active exercises including basketball and golf games.

Beyond the daily activities, the check-ups by the staff nurse and the counseling, EADS provides a social community that many of the participants would not experience, isolated at home.

Activities Coordinator Jean Strickland points out senior Gloria Lawrence, leading a boisterous chorus of “In the Army” during a feet-stomping aerobic exercise.

“She was, believe it or not, a shy person when she first came in,” Strickland said. “She’d sit by herself and not talk to anyone.”

All but two of the Bremerton participants are exected to attend the Bainbridge center, and staff will also be making the move. EADS hopes to reopen a south Kitsap branch within the next three years, possibly in the planned United Way community center in Bremerton.

Meanwhile, a group is working with Kitsap Transit’s VanLink program to provide a shuttle to the island, and plans morning activities onboard the van to make use of the added drive time for south Kitsap participants.

Despite comments from some that EADS is leaving Bremerton in favor of a more affluent community, Operations Director Jeremy Silver said the group’s mission is one thing the move won’t change.

“We’re battling some perception that we’re becoming elitist by moving to Bainbridge,” he said. “We’re still charging the same amount, we’ll still have the same people participating, we’ll just be able to have more of them.”

The pastoral feel of Sportsman Club Road, across from sprawling public school campuses, will be a sharp contrast to EADS’ busy downtown Bremerton location.

A two-year search for a new facility in Kitsap County led EADS to Bainbridge for an unexpected reason. The new building in the business park was the most affordable space they could find, Nestler said.

EADS also saw the Bainbridge as a community eager for its services.

A 2003 Health Housing and Human Services community needs assessment survey identified adult day care as one of the areas with the largest gap between need and services on the island.

HHHS Executive Director Jan Lambert said a number of community groups and government agencies have been working to make Bainbridge a friendlier place to grow old. The trend toward seniors living out their elder years at home is nation-wide, she said.

“There are a lot of communities around the country that are working to become more elder friendly,” Lambert said. “We on Bainbridge have even higher percentage of seniors than in the county and the country at large. We really are growing and graying.”

In the 2007-2008 Needs Assessment, due out next week, Lambert said service providers who were surveyed ranked elder care much lower as a community need than in 2003. It’s a sign, she said, that caregivers are anticipating EADS’ arrival.

For EADS, a final selling point of the Bainbidge location was the mix of businesses that will surround the new center.

Buildings lining the cul de sac house a number of health-care practices, including the offices of several psychiatrists and New Motion Physical Therapy. Nearby Aikido Art Center has also expressed interest in providing martial arts programs for EADS participants.

Island Children’s Montessori School will be moving into the floor above EADS, and Nestler hopes the inter-generational contact will be stimulating for both the tots and elders.

Crews are putting the finishing touches on the new 4,884 square-foot EADS center, which will fill the ground floor of one building on Coppertop Loop.

Its eastern side is dominated by a library with its own entrance, which will be available as a community meeting room. Staff offices and an activity room take up the northeast corner.

A broad corridor leads west past the restrooms to the laundry room, kitchen, nurses’ office and treatment room with examination beds. A meeting hall runs the entire length of the building’s south side. The hall can be partitioned into a dining area, family area and fireside lounge, but also be opened up for community functions.

Many of the rooms serve dual purposes. The laundry room, for example, is a place where participants can practice their motor skills by folding and sorting. They can also garden in landscaped areas around the building.

“As we age, we need tactile things,” Nestler said. “We need to touch and smell and feel and use all our senses.”

EADS is still raising money for the capital campaign that has funded the building. The project got a $440,000 boost from the estate of late Bainbridge resident C. Keith Birkenfeld in June. EADS has now secured nearly $500,000 toward a goal of $750,000.

“We could not be here without the generosity of this community,” Nestler said. “This seems to be a community that wants age in place, and they want the facility so they can age in place with dignity and respect.”

BOX: Elder and Adult Day Services is enrolling participants for its new Kitsap branch on Bainbridge Island, set to open in October. For enrollment information contact Susie Harris-Roggeveen at (360)377-9810 or eads.bremerton@eadscares.org.

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