by bryana johnson | photos by rhonda elder
Each weekday, approximately thirty adults attend the Mission Center, a non-profit adult day service on North A St. here in Midland. The purpose of the program is to provide resources that will allow elderly or disabled adults to remain in their homes with their loved ones. Executive Director, Jayni Whitefield, shared the specific needs that are met by the Mission Center.
“Many elderly and disabled adults can’t be left at home alone during the day, which presents a huge challenge for caregivers who have to work or may have other responsibilities outside the home. Our program gives the elderly and/or disabled adults a place to come during the day without forcing them into a nursing home or requiring a stranger to come into their home like home health. We have every capability that a long-term nursing home or home health facility has. The difference is the clients do not stay overnight at our facility.”
The Mission Center is open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. Many of the clients are picked up from their homes on buses and come to the center at 7:00 a.m. to eat breakfast and do morning activities. “On Fridays, we have church in the morning,” Whitefield shared. “On Wednesdays, we have yoga. After the morning activities, the clients eat lunch and then we have more activities. For example, sometimes we go to Mr. Gattis for pizza and bingo. We take them shopping at the Dollar Tree, or go to a museum. If they stay at the center, we have arts and crafts and restorative therapy available for them. They also receive a light snack and dinner to take home with them.”
Whitefield is passionate about the work she does at the Mission Center and her concern for the challenges facing the elderly and their caregivers is rooted in her own personal experiences. “I was really close with my grandparents,” Whitefield said. “They were together for 65 years and when my grandmother passed away, my grandfather sat at home alone by himself. Unfortunately, we have no facility like this in Kansas where I’m from. Eventually, home health came to take care of him, but he passed about a year after my grandmother.”
Whitefield’s experience is consistent with statistics. When an older couple suffers the loss of a spouse, the other is likely to pass away within a year if they are not socially active. “I just wish there was a facility like this that he could have attended,” Whitefield said. “He would have received that socialization and avoided loneliness during the last year of his life.”
Because of the work Whitefield and other staff members do at the Mission Center, elderly and disabled adults in similar situations have an option that Whitefield’s grandfather didn’t have. John is a client who lives with his son and daughter in Gardendale and comes to Mission Center during the day. Last year, he had a heart attack while eating lunch at the center, but the staff was able to sustain his injuries until EMS arrived. He was life-flighted to Dallas for open-heart surgery and after going through rehab, has returned to the Mission Center. “We believe the reason he is still here today is because he wasn’t at home alone during that heart attack but was here where we have the capability to get him the medical help he needed,” Whitefield said.
Yvonne is another client who may owe her life to the Mission Center. She has severe dementia and after a time, she stopped attending the center and her husband hired a home health aide instead. One day, the aide didn’t arrive on time and Yvonne wandered out the front door and began walking the streets. “There’s a lady who volunteers at our center, bringing her therapy dog in to interact with the clients. She happened to drive by and saw Yvonne wandering outside without a coat,” Whitefield said. “She recognized this as a sign of dementia and brought Yvonne in to our center, where we were able to care for her and get her safely back home.” Yvonne has since been enrolled in the Mission Center program.
Although most clients are elderly like John and Yvonne, the Mission Center also provides care for younger disabled adults. At the time of the interview, their youngest client was only 20 years old. Kassandra has down syndrome. She goes to school in the morning and attends the Mission Center program in the afternoon. “She really flourishes here,” Whitefield said. “She is actively involved in group exercises and loves to dance. She is one of those people who has a great heart and is always smiling, and she can bring energy and enthusiasm to someone who is withdrawn and inactive.”
Ceasar is in his thirties and while attending Midland College five years ago, he was in a car wreck and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He’s now in a wheelchair and cannot work, so he attends the Mission Center.
“We have a very diverse clientele,” Whitefield said. “It surprises a lot of people. When you think of adult day care, you probably picture the elderly. But our age range is 20 years old to 101. We have people with autism, traumatic brain injuries, veterans, schizophrenia, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Down Syndrome, and other symptoms. They all need the activity and socialization.”
On a day to day basis, the goal of the program is to give clients a sense of independence and add variety and social interaction to their lives. “We really don’t want them to feel like they’re shut up in the center,” Whitefield said. “We want them to feel like they can still go out and participate. We want to show them that they are not a burden.”
The Mission Center is always in need of volunteers and donations. Volunteers can help on outings with the clients, socialize, and play games with them. As a health industry, the center accepts donations of medical equipment, as well. “Medical supplies are very expensive, and we often get donations from people who had a loved one pass away and want those materials to go to good use and not just be thrown away,” Whitefield said. “That’s really helpful for us.”
Since the Mission Center is a non-profit organization, they also accept charitable donations that cover daily operating costs, meals for clients, activities, medical equipment, transportation expenses, and employee salaries. They are funded through program fees and by grants from local foundations around the Permian Basin.
Whitefield said her favorite part of her job is seeing the clients each day. “These people are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet,” she said. “Honestly, if you go into the facility, it feels more like a family than an adult day care facility. It’s not a sad environment. I love getting to know the clients and hear their stories. And they do become family.” †