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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

The great room of the Adult Tendercare Center was brimming with activity and a healthy amount of chatter. At one table, a hot card game was in progress. At another table, several women were stringing beads together to make necklaces.

"We call our clients participants," said Dr. Clarence Ketch, who founded the center and serves as its director. "That's because they come here to participate."

Founded in 1988, the Adult Tendercare Center provides adult day-care services for people 18 or older. The center cares for adults with a wide range of special needs.

Some are mentally or physically disabled. Others suffer from Alzheimer's disease. A few are incontinent. The only individuals the center doesn't accept, according to Ketch, are those who are bedridden or violent.

Before founding the center, Ketch worked at Southwest Missouri State University as a professor of sociology and social psychology. After he retired, Ketch who is also an ordained minister wanted to do something that would "make a difference."

He and his wife, Virginia, decided to start an adult day-care center, and they quickly set out to convert the building they owned at 301 Park Central East into a working facility. At the time, only three or four adult day-care centers were operating outside of St. Louis or Kansas City, Ketch said.

Like most new business owners, the Ketches spent lots of money on advertising. While some businesses are able to create a need for their services through advertising, the Ketches soon discovered their business was different.

"We still advertise, but all the ads do is promote awareness that we're here," Ketch said. "The truth is, nobody seeks us out until they need us."

Demand for adult day care has increased during the last decade, according to Ketch, and today there are approximately 40 adult day-care centers throughout the state. While demand has increased, Ketch has passed up opportunities to franchise his business.

"I'm sure there's still a need for adult day-care services in many small communities, but I don't want to franchise the center," Ketch said. "You start focusing on the business aspects and lose sight of what's really important."

So what's really important to Ketch? Helping people, he said.

Indeed, Ketch is hardly your typical businessman. Forget about discussing profit margins. He would rather talk about the dozens of people he's helped during the past 11 years both participants and caregivers.

"Every person who comes here gets a program designed just for them," Ketch said. "We sit down with the caregiver and establish two goals for each client. We try to get a sense of each participant's abilities and work within them."

Many of these goals focus on fostering independence. Oftentimes, Ketch said, he and his staff are able to teach a participant a task normally provided by the caregiver.

"It's easy for a caregiver to get worn down," Ketch said. "When that happens, the caregiver starts doing things for the participant that they may be capable of doing for themselves. We don't get worn down. We don't take them home at night, and we come back rejuvenated in the morning."

Still, burnout is a concern especially when it comes to retaining employees. While turnover is high in the industry, Ketch said that most of the six full-time employees who work at the center have three to 11 years of tenure.

Probably the biggest challenge Ketch faces is perception. Many caregivers are reluctant to seek help because they believe adult day-care services are very expensive. However, many caregivers don't pay for the center's services themselves.

A state-licensed facility, Adult Tendercare accepts payment from a variety of sources, including Medicaid, insurance companies, the Veteran's Administration, the Alzheimer's Association, the United Way and other funding sources. Currently, 95 percent of the 24 participants at the center have all of their day care paid for by Medicaid, according to Ketch.

Most of the other caregivers foot the bill themselves. The center charges private payers $42.70 per day, which includes lunch and some snacks, Ketch said.

In the future, the Ketches plan on turning over the center to their daughter Clarene Shepherd and her husband Bill, who also are co-owners. Currently, Clarene serves as the assistant director and Bill works as the center's coordinator.

"Everyone in the family shares the same philosophy," Ketch said. "We believe that everyone who comes here is special, and we treat them with respect and dignity."

Adult Tendercare Center

---------------------------------

Management philosophy: "We believe that everyone who comes here is special, and we treat them with respect and dignity."

Year founded: 1988

Address and phone number: 301 Park Central East, Springfield, Mo. 65806; 866-1559

Owner's name: Ketch Cares Inc.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Dr. Clarence Ketch, right, started Adult Tendercare after a career at SMSU. Next to him are wife Virginia Ketch, daughter Clarene Shepherd and son-in-law Bill Shepherd.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Co-owner Clarene Shepherd helps daily participant Linda White with a craft project. [[In-content Ad]]

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