Ophelia Williams (left), known as "Dimples," and Katie DeVore Gaswint enjoy the smell of fresh lilacs outside Katie's Adult Daycare Home in Marysville. Dimples is a frequent visitor to the home.
For almost ten years, Katie DeVore worked tirelessly as her husband John's primary caregiver. After suffering multiple mini-strokes, John's ability to help himself with daily activities diminished. His wife, a strong woman in her early 40s, dedicated herself to John's 24-hour care, a burden she willingly took on to ensure her husband's comfort and happiness.
"I wanted to be there for him," said DeVore, "but being on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week is overwhelming. I realized there was a need for families like mine to take a break once in awhile, to recharge their batteries."
The idea for Katie's Adult Day Care Home was born as John continued on his own journey. He passed away August 19, 2007. A few years after John's death, Katie DeVore reclaimed her maiden name, Gaswint.
Today Gaswint lives in a cozy Marysville home on a quiet street, and she shares that home with elderly or disabled clients who come for a few hours or the whole day. Most days she hosts two or three adults, fixing meals, going for walks, listening to their stories and tending to their needs like a compassionate family member.
"Respite care and adult day care are important to the millions of Americans that provide unpaid in-home care for elderly relatives, friends, or neighbors," writes Kathleen Michon, a contributor to the website nolo.com. "Respite caregivers and adult day care programs monitor and provide companionship to elders and seniors for a short period of time, so that their regular caregivers can take a break or deal with other responsibilities."
Although Gaswint saw the need for services like hers, she also recognized the potential for abuse in the unregulated industry. Over the years, she had lobbied Marysville's mayors-beginning with Dave Weiser, then Dennis Kendall, and finally Jon Nehring-for guidelines that combined common sense with safety and oversight. In 2011 Nehring brought together the city's fire chief, police chief, chaplain, and representatives of the planning department to address the need in Marysville and to help develop policies that would protect its elderly citizens and their families while allowing legitimate in-home adult daycare businesses to thrive.
County councilmembers John Koster and Brian Sullivan also joined in the discussions, along with Ken Stark, the state's Director of Home and Community Services.
Armed with their input and her own experiences, Gaswint created an operations manual, which was approved by the local and state representatives. The Adult Daycare Homes Association of Snohomish County was born.
Five adult daycare homes have since been inducted into the association after passing inspections that ensure standards are met. The homes must be inspected by the fire department and meet municipal code standards for adult daycare homes. The staff must be trained in first aid, certified in CPR and tested for tuberculosis. Caregivers must pass a criminal background check, have food handlers' permits, and agree to drug testing.
"When you choose to be the caregiver of an adult, you have a special challenge," said Gaswint. "My journey is over, but others are just starting on theirs. Our mission is to give those families the help they need and options for care that allow them to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible."
Barb Fuentes and her partner Dr. Tom Nowak have recently opened an adult daycare in their beautiful home overlooking the Centennial Trail in Lake Stevens. The couple was motivated by the needs of Nowak's father, Del, who suffers from Alzheimer's.
"Being able to find reliable respite care also allows families to use their resources more wisely," said Fuentes. "Instead of have to institutionalize someone 24 hours a day, draining their bank accounts and your own, you can feel good knowing that your loved one is being cared for while you're at work, then they can come home to familiar surroundings for the night. They're treated with compassion and dignity always, and the cost is very reasonable."
Karen Hall is going through the steps to open an adult daycare home in Stanwood, and she's learning the ropes from Gaswint, Fuentes and others in the association.
"I've been a long-haul truck driver for the past ten years or so, but being a caregiver is really where my passion is," said Hall. "I worked in people's homes and in nursing homes for years as a caregiver and companion. Right now a person who is very dear to me is in a nursing home, and I don't think she's getting the care or attention she needs."
The impetus to operate an adult daycare home is often based on the very real need of a family member or loved one. Adults in their 50s are called "the sandwich generation," because they are caught in the middle of raising their own children while often caring for their aging parents. In addition to the emotional drain of constantly taking care of others, these "sandwich" adults face financial challenges, marital strain, and often an overwhelming sense of despair and guilt.
"Sharing the caring," said Gaswint. "That's what this is all about. We want to help keep families together by providing a safe and guilt-free environment for people who need a little time off, and by creating a compassionate and loving family environment for adults who require full-time attention."
Her motto, which is etched into a plaque that hangs on the living room wall, is all about kindness.
"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest accomplishment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
To reach Katie Gaswint, phone (360) 653-0167 or email email@example.com
. To find out more about the Centennial Trail Home Sweet Home, run by Dr. Nowak and Barb Fuentes, visit www.centennialhomesweethome.com
or phone (425) 789-1431.