Day Out Program funding tightens

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Adult Protective Services makes a $20,000 cut

By Kirsten Laskey

The Day Out Program at the Betty Ehart Senior Center is utilized by caregivers across the county.
The program has been described as a lifesaver, Board President Dick Tatro of the Los Alamos Retired Senior Organization (LARSO) told county council members during their regular meeting Tuesday. Yet, after operating for more than 20 years and despite increased usage in the past 24 months, the program is in trouble.
LARSO Executive Director Pauline Schneider said Adult Protective Services cut its funding by $20,000 – nearly half the annual amount received from the state agency.
“That’s a pretty big hit,” Schneider said.
The Day Out Program had been receiving $46,000 from Adult Protective Services and $36,000 from the Area Agency on Aging each year.
“What this means is we would probably have to reduce program hours,” Schneider said. “We would have to reduce at least one full day.”
The hope is that the county will fill that gap, she said. The county provided funds last year and there is some discussion about putting funding for the program in the county’s FY 2012 budget.  
Tatro said the county contributed $15,000 last year to the program. Eighteen families participate and a member of each family utilizes the program 11 days out of each month on average.
Acting County Administrator Randy Autio said, “The county takes the care of … members of our community … very seriously and we will look at alternatives (for) how we can help with this funding loss.”
“It’s a valuable service,” Tatro said. “We feel there are people in the county that have made use of this program over the years. People come and go, a lot of people are frail and elderly and depend on caregivers and those caregivers have a rough role … it’s almost a 24-hour, seven- day-a-week job. We view this Day Out program as an opportunity for caregivers to take a break.”
Schneider explained that the program is valuable on several levels.
“One (reason) is a lot of these seniors really helped to build our community and it’s our responsibility to help them now that they are frail,” she said. “Another reason is that this is a really low-cost way to care for seniors because it is in a group.”
The Day Out program serves two purposes, Schneider said. “One is for the people who come to be mentally and physically stimulated and to be safe and the other purpose is for the caregivers to get a break,” she said. “They get as much benefit from it as the person coming here.”
Schneider said the program combines routine activities with some variations. Participants begin their morning with coffee and current events before moving on to daily exercise and lunch.
The afternoons vary; they watch movies or join in craft activities. Occasionally participants are taken on field trips.
A special highlight of the Day Out Program is volunteer Ruth Williamson’s music program, Schneider said.
Day Out operates 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The suggested donation fee is $6 per person per day; however, the actual cost per person, per hour is $23. Appreciation for the program’s value to caregivers is evidenced by the $19,000 that has been donated in the past six months.