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Nov. 12, 2009 Volume 31, No. 12

A mission of service


Amy Byergo, left, director of MU's Adult Day Connection, and her staff and volunteers help make the center a home away from home for its clients, like Wilma Owenson, right. Originally called Eldercare, the center provides therapeutic activities, exercise and nursing care and supervision.

Quality care

University community provides expertise for adult day care program

For 20 years, MU’s Adult Day Connection has served as a home away from home for the frail, elderly, individuals diagnosed with various forms of dementia and people who have mental and developmental disabilities or have had strokes.

In response to community demand for adult services, the School of Health Professions opened the center in 1989 on the first floor of Clark Hall. Formerly known as Eldercare, it was the only state-licensed adult day health care program serving families in Columbia.

Four years ago, the name was changed to better reflect the mission of serving all ages and all diagnoses. “Not everyone who attends this program is an elder,” says Amy Byergo, director. “Some folks are younger with senior type issues.”

A second location opened a couple of years ago at 2400 Bluff Creek on the lower level of the Mid Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and since then the center has served about 70 individuals a year.

The Adult Day Connection is a self-supporting program. The university provides space, utilities, insurance, human resources and technology and housekeeping. It is one of 31 agencies supported by the Heart of Missouri United Way and also depends on fees and other community support to continue the adult day care services. “We try to make sure that every one can come as often as they need to and that no one is turned away because of their inability to pay for the service,” Byergo says.

MU kicked off its annual United Way campaign Sept. 25 with a goal of reaching $620,000 in eight weeks. As of Nov. 2, donations totaled $477,384.84, or 77 percent of the goal.

“Without support from United Way, the city of Columbia, churches and the community, individuals with low incomes would not be able to attend this program,” Byergo says. Additionally, other United Way agencies like the Alzheimer’s Association, Boone County Council on Aging, OATS and Services for Independent Living work with the center to provide services for the center’s participants.

Adults who need social and medical support in a supervised setting are eligible to join the program. They attend one to five days a week and the daily fee includes a noon meal.  Therapeutic activities, exercise and nursing care and supervision are provided.

“Being part of the School of Health Professions allows us to provide occupational, speech and physical therapies,” Byergo says. “We have trained professional staff from multiple disciplines who provide consistent quality care in a comfortable environment as well as about 50 student volunteers each year who log more than 4,000 contact hours.”

Both the members and their caregivers experience rich benefits from participating in adult day care, Byergo says.  Not only does the program help aging men and women enhance their quality of life, be involved in activities throughout the day and be able to live at home longer, it also helps families cope with the demands of care giving, have time for themselves, or go to work with peace of mind, knowing their loved ones are well cared for.