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Adult care business shows growth

Innovative Senior Solutions, a home care company based in Americus, has undergone expansions in recent months. These expansions have included the renovation of an old day care center on Felder Street, down the road from Georgia Southwestern State University, into a new adult day center.

Innovative Senior Solutions, a home care company based in Americus, has undergone expansions in recent months. These expansions have included the renovation of an old day care center on Felder Street, down the road from Georgia Southwestern State University, into a new adult day center.

AMERICUS -- Founded five years ago, a company operating out of Sumter County that provides care to independent senior citizens opted to start small and expand at a slow pace.

So far, the plan appears to be working.

Innovative Senior Solutions got its start at a headquarters at South Georgia Technical College and is now based at an office on West Lamar Street here. In the last two years, it has opened an adult day center in Cordele, which celebrated its one-year anniversary a few months ago, as well as another center on Felder Street in Americus.

A survey was conducted by state officials in February on the Felder Street location, but it is not yet able to offer everything the Cordele center can. Officials can accept private-pay clients now, but are waiting on the company's Medicaid number before they can serve clients that qualify for the Medicaid waiver program.

"We are excited to see what we are going to do," said administrator Eshonda Blue. "Any day now, we could bring folks in."

The adult day centers serve seniors, as well as individuals with developmental or medical disabilities, who require assistance during the day or need socialization. Clients are offered opportunities for exercise as well as monthly field trips.

While these activities are going on, there are nurses and certified nursing assistants who remain on site, officials with the company say.

"It's a way to relieve caregivers as well," said director Jessica Wright. "They know they (the clients) are in a safe environment. Caregivers can drop off Alzheimer's patients."

The Cordele center, located on Fourth Avenue, serves people within a 100-mile radius. After that center was established, a call was issued to open one closer to Innovative's home base.

"A lot of folks were asking to get one in Americus," said Blue. "We found this place (on Felder Street), which was an old day care. We remodeled it."

In recent months, the company has been approved to do transportation, which means officials can take clients to and from the center. In the meantime, Innovative has continued its home-care support services.

"We help them to get ready in the morning, we assist them in getting ready for bed and transport them here and back," Wright said.

Since the Felder Street facility has opened to occupancy, officials have been hosting CNA classes there. The classes, which have been held in five-week cycles since February, are being conducted at night and are taught by 14 people.

"For home care, we saw a need for good CNAs, and that's when we started our own school," Blue said.

Innovative Senior Solutions currently serves Crisp, Dooly, Lee, Macon, Marion, Schley and Sumter counties. It is serving approximately 125 clients with 50 staff members.

While requests have surfaced for the company to establish a presence in additional counties, officials indicate that might not happen any time soon.

"We want to make sure all of our clients are taken care of, so we will likely stay in those seven counties for the time being," Blue said. "We want to keep our pulse on everything we have."

A big part of what Innovative does is meet a desire for a growing baby boomer population to stay in its homes for as long as possible rather than go directly into a nursing home.

"The government is pushing that as well," Wright said. "It is definitely cheaper (for people) to be taken care of at home."

The company's founding was inspired by one such request.

"We started as a small dream, (inspired) by a grandmother who said she didn't want to go to a nursing home," Blue said. "We didn't realize so many others felt the same way."

The typical client is a person age 55 or older with any kind of disability. Sitter and respite care services are also available for special needs children, or those who might need one-on-one assistance while recovering from surgery.

The recent expansions were made possible by a loan from the River Valley Regional Commission, and a staff member's father who happens to be a contractor and was willing to do renovations on the Felder Street center.

In all, $20,000 was put into the Cordele center and $30,000 spent on the one on Felder over the course of a year, Blue said.

The facility in Cordele is at capacity, while a waiting list is in place for the one in Americus. In the meantime, the client base for Innovative's home-care services has grown by 60-80 percent in recent months, Wright said.

"There is definitely a need in this area," she said.

The company has also begun hosting caregiver support groups that meet every third Thursday of the month from 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Some of the past topics discussed include home safety, stress relief, long-term care insurance and coping with Alzheimer's.

"We have speakers lined up for the rest of the year," Blue said. "We want to link (clients) to all the resources they need."

In an effort to help drum up support, the company has begun hosting a fall festival in September, for which persons from senior centers throughout its coverage area are invited. Attended by more than 200 seniors last year, the event included representation from 14 vendors tailored to that population's needs as well as free giveaways.

This year, the festival will be held Sept. 12 at the gymnasium on the South Georgia Tech campus.

Another method of bringing in support -- specifically monetary support -- is through the establishment of the Caring for Seniors Foundation, which officials say is currently in the developmental stages.

"It provides indigent funds for those that don't qualify for the Medicaid waiver program and are on fixed income," Blue said. "(The funds would be used) to pay for services that would be provided here."

The foundation, catered to seniors living in Innovative's coverage area, is holding its first board meeting this month. It will likely be several months before any money is awarded, Blue said.

"It will be initially based (at Innovative), but I foresee it being in its own space," she said.

In the long run, Innovative officials said they feel expanding at a slower pace has helped them tremendously.

"We wanted to know what we were doing wrong (and be able to fix it)," Blue said. "When you go slow, you see (problems) quickly and are able to fix them quickly.

"We are ironing out all of the kinks."

Blue also added that she foresees, in the future, another day center as well as another CNA class.

For more information, call (229) 928-3673 or visit www.innovativeseniorsolutions.com.