One of the perhaps lesser known programs that COVID-19 put an end to in 2020 was adult day care.
In March 2020, Friendship Haven closed its adult day care in Fort Dodge. That left many families without a place to have their loved ones cared for during the day.
On Thursday, a meeting was held at the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance to discuss the future of adult day care in Fort Dodge.
State Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, along with representatives from Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, Amerigroup, Iowa Total Care, One Vision and LifeWorks met with affected families.
“There’s a mix of people who utilize adult day care,” Meyer said. “There are adults with special needs or intellectual disabilities, adults with physical disabilities and there’s elderly adults that may live with their children and their children work and rather than put them in a nursing home or care facility they would utilize adult day care when they needed to to keep their loved ones safe.”
According to Meyer, about 70 adults would utiltize adult day care if the service was available in Fort Dodge.
A key reason for the loss of the service is workforce, Meyer said.
Mark Dodd, CEO of One Vision, said space is not the issue, but rather staffing.
“We had a great conversation about some of the barriers to providing adult day care,” Meyer said. “The number one barrier is workforce. I was happy Mayor (Matt) Bemrich was there because he talked about a marketing campaign — that maybe people don’t know these positions are available.
“If you don’t work with someone with special needs you may not know it’s available. It’s personally very rewarding work. It’s a complicated problem. It has to be addressed on many different levels. I know we have a lot of community support to bring something like this back. It will not be an overnight fix, though.”
Not having the service available has left adults with special needs more isolated. And that has a negative impact on health, Meyer said.
“During the pandemic we realized how important socialization is for everybody,” Meyer said. “Our clients with special needs are having a hard time without social interaction. While it might not be at the top of everybody’s list it’s vitally important.”
Loneliness can decrease life expectancy, according to one statistic shared during the meeting, Meyer said.
“If you are consistently lonely and isolated, that has the equivalency of lessening your life expectancy as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Meyer said. “That was one statistic I hadn’t heard before.”
Meyer said the goal is to help families keep their loved ones at home.
“The most expensive way to care for someone is to put them in a care facility,” she said. “Anything we can do to support the families that are taking care of their loved ones at home, I think we need to do that. Director (Liz) Matney (Iowa Medicaid Enterprise) is committed to that as well.”
Funding for an adult day care service is generally covered partially by Medicaid and partially by private funds.
Meyer said having the service would also be a benefit to attracting workers to Fort Dodge.
“If we are trying to attract companies and a skilled workforce to Fort Dodge — if someone has a parent or an adult child that would require these services — that’s a reason for them to come to Fort Dodge if it’s available. But if we don’t have those services, they won’t come.”
Meyer added, “This is something that would benefit people moving to town. Again, it’s a workforce issue in that way as well.”
Meyer described the meeting as a “starting point to get this service back in Fort Dodge.”
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