El Dorado Hills seniors have long enjoyed their local Senior Center’s activities. Soon, senior caregivers will enjoy its newest program — Senior Day Care.
Recommended by District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to establish a Senior Day Care program at the Ramona “Moni” Gilmore Senior Center at 990 Lassen Way (a repurposed El Dorado Hills fire station).
The effort to get the county to approve and fund a satellite day care center has been characterized by fits and starts for years. Long-time Village Life/Mountain Democrat columnist and El Dorado Hills resident Ramona ‘Moni’ Gilmore included a trust in her will to benefit senior citizens of the county and especially those in the El Dorado Hills area. That fund with an estimated value of $700,000 to $800,000 can be used to pay some up-front costs of completing a building remodel and retrofit. Supervisors also approved a $265,000 increase to the 2013-14 General Fund budget for “necessary equipment, supplies and additional staffing costs to prepare for 24 clients,” agenda documents state.
District 1 Commissioner to the Area Agency on Aging Hal Erpenbeck described the underfunded and uncompleted project as “our own Bridge to Nowhere” and urged it to be built out, staffed and funded.
Placerville’s Senior Day Care facility on Spring Street has been operating at “over capacity,” Mikulaco said in his introductory remarks. “There are more and more people who need these services, and the number keeps increasing.” He said it was “a pleasure and an honor” to bring the proposal to the board.
El Dorado Hills Community Services District General Manager Brent Dennis said, “We’d be privileged to share our facility” with the center, and a number of people spoke about the beneficial effects a day care program can have on those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Former Placerville City Council member Kathi Lishman spoke personally about the value of having a safe place for an elderly parent with dementia to spend a few hours and give the care provider a break from an otherwise 24/7 job.
Drawing on the concept of “It takes a village to raise a child,” Lishman said, “It takes a community to care for our seniors, so I strongly support this.”
Carol Louis and Patti Chelseth weighed in describing their experiences caring for parents at home. Chelseth said she does not approve of many government programs or expenditures, but “I do approve having my tax money spent for this.”
A Johns Hopkins University study cited by John Raslear describes the financial, physical and emotional toll on caregivers who, in many cases, have to quit jobs or reduce their employment in order to provide care for a parent or spouse. Raslear is general manager of the Four Seasons Retirement Community in El Dorado Hills.
“The study shows that people with dementia actually show improvement under the care of professionals (in day care programs),” Raslear told the board.
District 3 Supervisor Brian Veerkamp was credited for his efforts to save and restore the fire station during his tenure as chief of the El Dorado Hills Fire District. He also confirmed that having worked with Gilmore for many years, he could “testify in court that her trust fund was intended for El Dorado Hills seniors, and it gives me great pleasure to move this item forward.”
Veerkamp deflected kudos for his involvement in the project, and later Mikulaco praised Raslear and Erpenbeck, along with Michelle Elliston (his part-time assistant) and Veerkamp’s assistant Kathy Witherow for their efforts on behalf of the center.
Local senior programs are under the jurisdiction of the El Dorado County Health and Human Services agency. Acting Assistant Director Don Ashton provided the fiscal details of the project noting that after the first year, the budget amount would drop from $265,000 to about $217,000 and later would likely be approximately mid-range of $190,000 to $200,000. Part of the anticipated decrease is based on projections that clients and client families will pay about $80,000 per year in program fees. Those fees currently are $40 to $50 per day.
“Are you very comfortable with those figures you brought?” Chairman Ron Briggs asked Ashton, who responded, “Yes, they’re all very conservative.”
The board’s vote included direction to the Chief Administrative Office and HHSA to have the necessary budgetary and personnel allocations ready for the final budget in September.