Home away from home | SummitDaily.com

Home away from home

SUMMIT COUNTY – Maria Crandall was 18 years old when she sustained severe brain injuries in a car accident.

“When she came home from the hospital … she weighted about 85 pounds,” said Maria’s mother, Gerd. “She couldn’t walk or speak.”

Gerd quit her job to care for her daughter and – aside from two years when Maria went to a center specializing in severe behavioral problems – she and her husband have cared for Maria ever since. Maria is 42 now.

“We haven’t had much of vacations for 23 years,” Gerd said. “If we go someplace, we have to take Maria along.”

Until this year, that is. Since January, the Crandalls get two days a week to themselves while Maria spends the day at Timberline Adult Day Service.

Timberline provides daycare for adults with mild to moderate dementia, chronic physical problems or other conditions requiring full-time supervision. Timberline’s services also provide respite for families like the Crandalls who have been caring for a relative at home.

Though she is now able to walk and talk, Maria has no short-term memory and could never care for herself.

“She functions basically at the age of a 5- or 6-year-old,” Gerd said. “The frontal lobes (of her brain) are mostly destroyed, and you can’t do much without the frontal lobes. She can’t live alone. She has to be told to go take a shower. She has to be told when to go brush her teeth. She has no understanding of bodily care. She couldn’t hold a job. The stage she’s at now is probably the way she will be for the rest of her life.”

Maria is one of three participants at the center currently. She takes the Mountain Mobility bus to Timberline each Tuesday and Thursday and spends the day with fellow participants and Timberline’s director, Candace Selk Barnes.

Timberline has its own quarters – a cozy room filled with sunshine, stuffed chairs, games and plants – at the new Summit County Community and Senior Center. Barnes keeps Maria and the other participants busy with a variety of activities. They bake cookies, make holiday decorations, play games or work on the computer, for example.

“Maria’s a mean Sorry, Monopoly and Yahtzee player,” Barnes said.

And the group often joins the Summit County Seniors for their group lunch.

Gerd said she and her husband pushed hard for adult day care when the community and senior center was in its planning stages.

“Adult day care is really essential for handicapped people – to be around other people and so family members can have a little free time,” Gerd said.

Before coming to Timberline, Maria had little opportunity for social interaction. Aside from going to church on Sundays, she stayed at home with her parents.

“It was just us,” Gerd said. “When she stays at home with us, she sleeps an awful lot because there isn’t much for her to do.”

Now, Maria looks forward to her days at Timberline.

“She loves people,” Gerd said.

Because Maria has no short-term memory, Barnes helps her write a diary about each day at Timberline so she can share her experiences with her parents when she returns home at night.

Barnes is preparing to extend Timberline’s hours next month when several more participants will join them. She also is hiring an assistant to maintain a 1-4 ratio of caregivers to participants. Participants will range in age from late 30s to early 80s – much younger than Barnes initially anticipated, she said.

Barnes still is working to get the word out about Timberline’s services. Beginning in May, she will care for about seven participants. Though Colorado allows Timberline to have as many as 20 participants, Barnes said she would rather keep the numbers between 12 and 15.

Timberline is open 7:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Beginning in May, it will be open Mondays as well.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or lsnyder@summitdaily.com.

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