County’s Adult Day Care Facility Opens In Harrison
New Strouse Center Offers Special Help, Respite


By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer

Copyright Clare County Cleaver

HARRISON – Senior Services Director Lori Phelps recalls some seven or eight years ago that she had been approached by Clare County couple who were both working and faced with the dilemma of how to care for an aging parent who had moved in with them and required a great deal of assistance.

loungePhelps said she knew then that the county would have an increasing need for such care, and she set about figuring out how to make an adult day care facility a reality in Clare County.

“They needed something at least a few days a week,” Phelps said. “And we just didn’t have the capacity to be able to do that and it really bothered me. That was when I decided, we’re going to have an adult day care. No matter what, I’m going to make it happen.”

That long-awaited day arrived in November when The Strouse Center opened and began accepting applicants for day care services. Phelps said the Center’s name is a tribute to that original family whose need first shone a light on this special need in the county and inspired her to fill it.

The Center, located in what used to fishbe a chapel adjacent to the congregate meal site/activity center in Harrison, was funded through multiple grants. Those were provided by the Clare Community Foundation, the Alden and Veda Dow Family Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and the Grace A. Dow Foundation, along with a generous $21,000 donation from the Area Agency on Aging.

Phelps said that day care operational funding to serve Clare County had been going to the Isabella County Adult Day Care, but that with the establishment of the local facility she will be reapplying for that funding which she expects will be redirected to Clare County for the next fiscal year which begins Oct. 1, 2019.

“I’m also going to be applying for funds from Gladwin County, as well,” Phelps said. “They don’t have an adult day care and those funds go to Isabella County right now – and we’re closer.”

She also said USDA funds will help with purchase of a van to transport clients to and from the day care.

Getting the adult day care up and running has been a daunting task requiring long-term commitment and a great deal of endless drive to see it through to fruition. However, now that it is open for business, there needs to be a dedicated person at the helm, and that person is Laura Smith, director of The Strouse Center. Smith has a history of working with the elderly as an activities director at nursing homes and is quite familiar with dementias and cognitive impairments. Her sincere interest in providing for the well-being of her clients is obvious.

“I love the older people,” Smith said. “It’s not a job for everybody; I just connect really well with them.”

Smith provided the Cleaver with a guided tour of the completed day care, described the various amenities and noted the current cost structure for clients as $15 for a 5-hour block of time and $25 for a longer time.

“We just wanted to make it affordable,” she said.

Something Smith is considering is offering a free half-day trial visit so people can get a sense of what is offered before committing themselves without knowing much about it.

One especially beneficial element of the facility is the inclusion of an office area for Mobile Medical Rescue ambulance service personnel. That means that if a medical emergency arose, MMR staff would likely already be in the building and available to help.

Smith pointed out the activities/dining area with large tables, generously spaced to provide ample maneuvering room for wheelchairs. She said activities will range from exercise to arts and crafts, as well as educational discussions and skills acquisition.

“I’m really focused on reaching out to the clients and learning about what they like to do, so we can make sure we offer that,” Smith said. “That will make them more comfortable and have them looking forward to coming here.”

The dining room is adjacent to the senior meal site, which would provide meals for clients in the Center. She said the Center will be open at 7:30 a.m. for those who need the early hours, and breakfast could be made available as well.

It would seem that many members of the Senior Services staff are invested in the success of The Strouse Center, and so have contributed their own touches to make the spaces as homey as possible. Smith said that Senior Services employee Carol Leary, former proprietor of MacLean’s Mercantile, has brought in many of her store pieces for that reason. Another Senior Services employee brought in a very large aquarium which was set up in a sitting room with four large reclining chairs. She outfitted it with mechanicals, fish and plants so that clients can enjoy the soothing sound of the bubbler while watching the endlessly soothing movement of the tank’s residents.

“Just like the fish tank that’s nice and soothing, I have a nature sounder here that plays the sounds of waves and rainstorms, and things like that,” she said. “It’s for people who need to calm down or relax, then they have a nice place for that.”

Yet another offset alcove serves as a TV room and relaxation area. Throughout the facility there are plants and the home décor tchotchkes of life which lend that needed homey comfort.

The Center boasts two bathrooms, one of which contains a shower for those who might need that care. Smith said that any clients who need assistance in rising from a chair or walking will be aided by staff, all of whom will be CNAs [certified nurse’s aides], who will provide any personal care or assistance needed.

“I will have a nurse here as needed, because we will be able to dispense medications throughout the day,” Smith said. “The nurse would come in and make sure that is set up correctly, and our staff would go through training so they’re able to cue clients to take medications at the proper time.”

Smith said the nurse’s office is where patient records and medications will be securely held, accessible only by the nurse or herself.

The fact that the proportion of older residents in Clare County is rising makes it increasingly important to infuse younger staff in Senor Services to ensure continued quality accommodation of senior needs. To that end, Phelps has hired some younger staff members.

“We’re all getting older,” she said. “We need to start an infusion of younger people.”

Phelps also addressed the increase in older population and the equally increasing need for day care and respite care for those who have charge over those folks.

“My thought is, yes, we’ll repeat this in the southern part of the county – some time down the road,” she said.

For now though, families need to become aware of the service which is finally available locally.

To inquire about The Strouse Center, call Senior Services at 989-539-8870.