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Business offers day- care for grown-ups

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by Paul Schreiber

SBJ Contributing Writer

For individuals who need assistance in giving weekday care to adults 18 or older, a downtown Springfield business can help.

Adult Tendercare Center, at 301 Park Central East, is now in its 10th year of providing an affordable alternative to nursing-home care, according to Bill Shepherd, vice president and coordinator of admissions for the center.

Adult Tendercare was founded in 1988 by Dr. Clarence Ketch, a retired professor of sociology at Southwest Missouri State University, and his wife, Virginia. The facility is now managed by Shepherd and his wife, Clarene, who serves as secretary and treasurer. Ketch remains director and 25 percent owner of the facility.

The Shepherds began working full time for Adult Tendercare Oct. 1, 1997 and "on Jan. 1, 1998, we became 75 percent partners," according to Shepherd. Prior to this undertaking, Shepherd worked as an insurance agent for Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company while Clar-

ene worked for Nutri-System Weight Loss in Joplin.

Adult Tendercare is an adult day-care center that operates 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. five days a week. The center is closed on weekends and government holidays. It currently cares for 22 people and can handle as many as 60. Services are typically paid for either by Medicaid or on a private, out-of-pocket basis. The daily rate for care is $42.70. If the center provides care for less than a full day, the cost is roughly $8 an hour.

Shepherd begins his day before 7 a.m., picking up a few of the 22 individuals that regularly spend the day at the center. He prefers to call the center's charges "clients" rather than "patients" or "residents" because they don't live there, he added.

Shepherd and his wife, along with a certified medical technician and a nurse's aide, keep clients busy with a variety of activities ranging from bingo and cards to sewing and sing-a-longs. "We're right there out on the floor with the people," he said. "We try to find what button we can touch that interests them, whether it's reading or watching videos."

In addition to these activities, the staff prepares and serves meals, assists clients with feeding and personal requirements, when necessary, and administers prescribed medications as needed. People at Adult Tendercare have different needs and circumstances. Some clients require wheelchairs or may be developmentally impaired, while others have Alzheimer's disease or are significantly challenged by accidents.

"We have the people that need hands-on," Shepherd said. "We don't park them against the wall and let them sleep." His concern for the center's clientele is apparent. "We call them 'our kids,'" he said. "They're sweet people to deal with. That's why we call it 'Tendercare'; you've got to be able to care."

Adult Tendercare Center is a member of the Association of Adult Day-Care Centers. It holds a Medical Model license and is one of 52 licensed programs in Missouri, according to Tracy Cleeton, program director for the Missouri Division of Aging in Jefferson City. "The program licensing requirement has been in place since about 1985," Cleeton said.

In the last four years Cleeton has seen the number of adult day cares almost double. While the number of licensed providers throughout the state is rising, Cleeton said many "people don't know what they are or what kind of services are provided." Part of the problem stems from people not knowing where to go to get the service they need.

"There's probably a lot of under-served areas in Missouri, and that could include a lot of rural areas," Cleeton said.

"The general public is who we need to be reaching," Shepherd said. "The Division of Aging does not go out and solicit and tell people that there is this kind of place." He added, "We invite people to come down and see what's going on. Our door is open."

Adult Tendercare can be reached at 866-1559.

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