JOSH STEPHENSON/Durango Herald
As the holidays neared Friday, Doris Walker, Mary Killian and Lloyd Moore put finishing touches on the candy bowls and Christmas cards they designed and decorated for loved ones. Margaret Mundt sat apart, engrossed in caressing a toy stuffed bear.
The four are among the clients at Our Place at Grandview, which plays a double role in day care for the elderly. It’s a home away from home for oldsters whom family members don’t want to stick away in a nursing facility, and it offers the caregivers a break from a demanding day-in, day-out routine.
“Our clients aren’t ready for a (nursing) home, but they can’t be left alone,” said Program Director Tanya Boyce, a certified nursing assistant. “Almost all of them have some dementia.”
Home-service agencies can relieve caregivers, but they’re expensive, and there’s no socialization, Boyce said.
Not so at Our Place, where there’s a lot of action and interaction. Volunteers Kay Neal and Betty Loffer maintained a flow of chitchat Friday and helped when needed.
As the first activity of the day, Boyce and two volunteers gather clients around a table for coffee and read the newspaper. Photos are of particular interest. Then come 30 minutes of stretching and strength exercises, followed by arts-and-crafts projects or table games.
By this time it’s noon, time for a Meals on Wheels lunch. After eating clients can nap, walk outside (weather permitting), or while away the time with table games – bingo, dominoes, Yahtzee – or a jigsaw puzzle.
Once a week, there’s live music from a volunteer musician, with songs the clients can sing along with. Once every three months, Durango Arts Center provides a program.
“We try to be consistent in our activities,” Boyce said. “Following a routine is easier on them.”
Our Place, in the Elk Park Center, 691 County Road 233, opened its doors in August 2010, as an outreach of First United Methodist Church. Care is offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
Attendance varies, according to the needs of caregivers – family members or spouses – who have errands to run or need time to themselves.
“There’s a great need for this type of service in the community,” Our Place board member Tom Stuber said Friday. “We need to get the word out.”
Stuber said the program could be expanded, but would need more space.
As it stands, only six elderly people can be on the premises at a time because of a Durango Fire & Rescue Authority regulation on the number of exits. The main requirement is that clients must be able to take care of personal needs.
Jim Bentley got a good impression of Our Place from the year his mother-in-law, Lucille Blawat, spent there two or three times a week.
“She was a singer, so the musical activities were appreciated,” Bentley said. “It was tremendous help to my wife and me, too, because it gave us a break when we needed it.”
Our Place is a social model of elderly care, Boyce said. It’s not required to be licensed by the state because no medical care is involved, and La Plata County doesn’t license such facilities.
The limited number of clients makes for a cozy setting. Boyce and two volunteers of a cadre of 25 available manage easily.
Jackie Douglass, whose mother, Adelyne Douglass, was a regular at Our Place, wrote Boyce recently from Arizona where the family has moved.
“Mom talks about you and her friends there often,” Douglass said. “She often asks why she can’t just go back. I have to remind her that we’re a long way from Durango.”
Sharon Crook has left her mother, Margaret Mundt, 88, at Our Place three days a week since shortly after the center opened.
“It’s a godsend because no way could I have kept her at home because it’s all-consuming,” said Crook, who runs an insurance agency. “I checked nursing homes and don’t like them.
“Our Place is the closest thing to care in my own home, and mother fits right in. The volunteers are so fantastic that there has to be a place in heaven for them.”
Janice Moore said her husband, Lloyd, 71, enjoys the contact with people. He suffered a stroke in July 2010, but is recovering.
“He finds stimulation there,” Moore said. “He could sit at home and talk to a caregiver, but that wouldn’t be a good choice because it would be baby sitting.”