Recently, we read a large percentage of retirees call Oneida County home…as they should because Oneida County and the Rhinelander surrounding areas are great places to live with its strong and involved sense of community. Proper care for our growing number of seniors requires a chain of care, incrementally progressing beyond our physicians and hospitals. In the event aging loved ones need specialized care; in-home care, independent and/or assisted living facilities, adult day-care respite programs, and finally nursing home care, all are incremental levels of specialized care. Our community has enjoyed these services by professional health care providers—until now—when beginning February 1st, Rhinelander terminates its only adult day-care respite program leaving a critical gap in the spectrum of senior care for our elderly.
Ironically on the heels on November being “Caregiver Awareness Month” and December being “Dementia Awareness Month”, it was quietly announced Headwater’s adult day-care respite program–The Caring Connection–will be phased out at the end of January. Headwaters has operated this program quite professionally for nearly five years, providing an essential care service for seniors with increasing degrees of dementia.
The Caring Connection, under the helm and caring of Ms. Julie Bruyette, has given seniors with dementia in their 70s, 80s and 90s a structured program on memory and life skills, art, social interactions and even field trips. The Caring Connection also has provided structure, routine, and companionship—critical elements with dementia patients’ care. Importantly, The Caring Connection has provided a very safe and supervised environment. Incidentally, some of today’s seniors participating in this, The Caring Connection program, are paying $60 a day from their own pockets and not relying on any Wisconsin state or federal monies.
Come February, Rhinelander’s void in adult respite care will not only directly affect today’s enrolled seniors (and those to emerge in the next years) but also directly hit the home front whereby the caregivers of today’s enrolled seniors will be faced with difficult choices: on their own try to find another program that matches the standards of The Caring Connection, if they find one will that program be an additional 30-60 minute drive away, can they even continue their own jobs if they would have to provide that care and supervision themselves?
Facilities exist in Eagle River, Antigo, Prentice, Merrill, Wausau and Minocqua. The ideal solution for Rhinelander—our County seat—is to have the full spectrum of adult care to offer its community. Without them, some unintended consequences will surely occur: seniors in need will be left alone for long periods with little supervision, seniors in need will be even more isolated, and what we fear is many adults would be prematurely admitted to nursing care.
Rhinelander officials need to quickly address this issue in two ways: immediately have a stop gap measure that continues adult respite care in the interim, and given that extra time form a task force of county officials, medical professionals, Headwater’s and Alzheimer’s Associations leadership, businesses, and some of the caregivers of affected seniors who-every day-have been dealing with the challenges of parental dementia care for their loved ones. We owe it to our aging seniors and to the dedicated caregivers ensuring seniors are provided the appropriate level of professional care.
Lori and Lucille Regni, and Ted Simon, Pelican Lake