This story by Lisa Dahm was originally published in The Catholic Sun, the newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.
Following advice from a support group, Vivian Sarsam decided to take her 86-year-old husband, Muntaz, to Tempe Adult Day Health Services Center two years ago.
The couple has been married for more than 50 years, and she said it was difficult at first to leave her husband, a retired engineer who once spoke several languages, with anyone.
She quickly grew to trust the faith-based center, and now her husband goes to the “senior center” twice a week for about five hours a day and is picked up at their house by a paratransit program. Despite his cognitive health issues, he is living a full life through the day center and with the help of his wife, friends and family.
“I have gotten so I really do trust them,” she said. “I like it because it is well staffed and they are very caring.”
Sarsam is one of the many family members who relies on the three adult day health services centers of the Foundation for Senior Living in Arizona.
Founded in 1974, the Foundation for Senior Living has a goal of “providing a wide range of services to help people age in place throughout their life.”
“Everything we do is really centered around that mission,” said Carrie Smith, chief operating officer of the Foundation for Senior Living.
The foundation offers a wide variety of programs in the areas of health and wellness, nutrition, housing and education. They provide health and wellness programs through their home and community-based services, and they also deliver seniors and people with disabilities nutritious meals through food pantries, home-based meals programs and center hot meals. FSL programs provide the elderly and those in need with affordable housing through single-family homes, foster home programs and other therapeutic homes. They also offer education and support for caregivers and clients.
Smith said funding from the Diocese of Phoenix Charity and Development Appeal has especially helped them operate their nutrition programs and has allowed them to offer help from social workers to families.
Last year, the FSL provided 204,756 meals to seniors and adults with disabilities — including home meals or senior center meals, Smith said. Providing nutrition is a much-needed service, she said, because many of the elderly have to decide whether to use their meager incomes to purchase medicine or to use it for food.
Last year, FSL served 34,000 people, including caregivers, and provided 370,652 hours of care to individuals, according to Smith.
“Even though we are helping the individual, we are really helping everyone in the family,” Smith said. “The family needs that respite too. We are connecting them (with programs and services) and we are caring for them as well. We are touching a lot of lives with the work we do.”
Carolyn Hutchens, director of the FSL’s Tempe Adult Day Health Services Center, said she loves meeting elderly members who once held a variety of prominent positions in the community — engineers, astronauts, teachers and other professions — who still have much wisdom to offer.
“We are able to honor their past while celebrating who they are right now,” she said.
Hutchens said the Tempe center, which is now being awarded a community service award from the City of Tempe, serves about 60 people per day of the 147 who are enrolled in the program. Sarsam said the program is an important part of the community, when loved ones who need adult day health get loving attention from a devoted, understanding staff.”
Sarsam said she talked to other people who take their loved ones to the center, and she found that “everybody had a different story and situation.”
“It is just something that is needed in our society,” she said.