John Preisner is determinedly picking up tennis balls, one at a time, and transferring them to a bucket. This is part of a physical therapy regimen designed to help him regain the use of his right hand after a stroke. When I explained that I was touring the Peg Taylor Center for Adult Day Health Care to write about it in the Senior Moment column, he said emphatically, “Make it positive, because this place is. It gave me back my life!”Diane Cooper-Puckett, executive director since 1985, is giving me the tour. “John has been an inspiration for so many people because he’s worked so hard,” said Cooper-Puckett. Preisner’s determination has allowed him to regain the ability and the license to drive again after the stroke had limited his mobility. Now his goal is even fuller function.Cooper-Puckett points out a painting by Feline Sampley, who lost the use of her right hand in an accident and is learning now to use her left hand to produce exquisitely delicate paintings. Her progress has been remarkable.
Since its inception, the Peg Taylor Center has used the California poppy as its logo and has sent out trademark packets of poppy seeds with an annual appeal for donations. When I asked Cooper-Puckett why the poppy was chosen, she explained that, like the participants, “They are hardy, resilient and bloom so beautifully under the most challenging conditions. It seems like a wonderful symbol of what we want for people in our programs.”
Cooper-Puckett informs me that California pioneered adult day health care and that the Peg Taylor Center was one of the first facilities of this kind to serve a rural area in California. Chico is now urban but the Chico center serves Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties, including much rural area.
The facility was born through huge community support inspired by the late Margaret “Peg” Taylor, a public health nurse who believed that those dealing with serious illness could best recover in a social setting that offered multiple services. Peg had seen the very first adult day health care program in the country, established in the San Francisco area, and was impressed by all it offered in one place.
In 1981, Peg shared her vision with a coalition of like-minded organizations and individuals at the Chico Area Recreation District’s Community Center. This group of volunteers was inspired by the idea of an integrated model of care where adult participants of all ages could receive a wide range of services tailored to their individual needs.
In 1986 the Peg Taylor Center for Adult Day Health Care first opened at a local church that was among its early supporters. In 1992 it moved to its current site at 124 Parmac Road in Chico, a peaceful place set back off the main road, a bit past the DMV. Since it was established, it has provided over 1.4 million hours of care.
Professional care is provided through the efforts of 23 staff members. As listed in the website, pegtaylorcenter.org, the center offers physical, occupational and speech therapies; nursing and personal care, social work services, recreational activities to promote health, nutritional counseling, hot lunches, transportation when needed to and from the center, caregiver support, health education, and specialized services for those with unique needs.
All participants have personalized care plans designed to maximize their abilities so they can continue living in their own homes or with families for as long as possible. Dr. Ken Fleming, the center’s staff volunteer staff physician oversees the care plans. Debi McDermont, registered nurse, and Dorothy McClure, licensed vocational nurse, see to participants’ daily health needs. The center’s five program assistants and certified nursing assistants also assist with activities, meal service and daily nursing care.
In addition, nursing, social work, and therapy students from Butte Community College and Chico State University come to the center to learn, observe and share their talents.
Participants have ranged in age from 18 to 104. Currently 25 percent are under age 65. Some participants have conditions with gradual onset like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes, while others are recovering from sudden trauma such as accident or stroke. Each participant brings to the program a mix of strengths and challenges. Some are in wheelchairs or use walkers. Some need special diets. All profit from the interactions with others and they make remarkable friendships.
As I walk through the various rooms, I can see many different programs are happening simultaneously. While Preisner is working with Occupational Therapist Amy Mukai, a discussion of current events has finished. A group is now playing Trivia Twister with one of the recreation therapists; others rebuild dexterity with household tasks, sip coffee or tea, and chat with friends. In an adjoining room, volunteer Angelina Lal-Torres is giving manicures to three women who proudly show me elegant nails. “I love to hear their stories,” smiles Lal-Torres.
Outside under a venerable walnut tree, a circular walkway is set up for those who enjoy the tranquil outdoor setting. Pretzels covered with peanut butter and seeds, a recent art project, hang to entice the birds. A small container garden, designed to be accessible by wheelchair, is being tended by a participant.
The three activities directors are aided by volunteers, who contribute over 2,600 hours each year to the programs, sharing music, crafts, pet therapy, woodworking and other special interests. Volunteer positions can be crafted to match the interests of the volunteer, and include discussion leaders, activity assistants, manicurists, educational lecturers, birthday planners, crafters, and more. A jazz guitarist plays regularly for Tuesday lunches. A volunteer pianist has been sharing her talents for 15 years. For information on how to become a volunteer, call one of the volunteer coordinators, Mary, Emily or Michele.
If you wish to donate in other ways, consider contributing a cash donation or an item on the Wish List. The center is hoping to replace its outdated computer system and would welcome contributions to the Computer Fund or of recent model PCs. In addition to computer equipment, the Wish List includes art and craft supplies, a Wii for the fitness program, and B-Line Para Transit Ride Passes. You can also start getting in shape for the Annual Poppy Walk and 5K Run to be held April 13, 2013 at One-mile Recreation Area.
The Peg Taylor Center is a remarkable, inspiring place. We in the Tri-Counties area are fortunate to have such a facility. If you think you or someone you know might benefit from the program, contact one of the social workers who can help you determine if this is the right resource, or drop by to visit. For referrals, donations, or volunteering, call 342-2345.
Leslie Howard, former teacher at Pleasant Valley High School, currently teaches English to foreign students at the American Language and Culture Institute at Chico State University. She likes travel, to be with family and friends, and to participate in volunteer interests. Send comments and suggestions for future column topics to firstname.lastname@example.org.