Laura Matthews, manager of Parma Hospital’s ElderCenter, has been a leader for decades in developing innovative opportunities for older adults in thecommunity. For her extraordinary impact on the health and wellness of this population, she was honored this month by the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA) at the Second Annual Independent Living Awards.
The WRAAA credited Matthews with the inception of three unique programs that have evolved from the adult day care she has managed since 1990:
- The Club, a weekly retreat for individuals with mild memory loss. This structured social program gives individuals coping with losses in initiative, judgment and social status an outlet to guide the group’s activities. Reminiscence sessions, field trips and exercise are a part of this program for those with cognitive impairment.
- Designed Around You, an innovative program that consists of eight weeks of graduated day care to ease the transition from a hospital stay to community living. During these critical weeks, family members can access services that will complete the transition for the newly discharged loved one. The DAY program received the WRAAA’s Service to Seniors Award in 2006.
- Club SODA, a daily program offering Service, Opportunities and Development for Active Young Adults. Designed for members ages 21 to 49, participants benefit from the socialization of various activities, including drama, field trips and parties.
“Laura has the perseverance to develop and see projects through to completion where someoneelse might have turned and simply walked away,” says Gail Swiger, director ofParma Hospital’s Health Education Center, who has watched the ElderCenter programming evolve from an adult day care that served a small group of people in 1990 to a series of services that have impacted more than 2,000 older adults and their caregivers. “Laura’s dedication and diligent efforts have kept the services of the ElderCenter in the minds of the people in the communities.”
Matthews estimates that these programs have helped their participants to remain at home, and part of their community, for two to three years longer. These services initiated by Matthews at the ElderCenter are keeping older adults living independently longer while supporting the state’s goal to reduce the dependence on nursing facilities. Ohio ranks 42nd in the nation in spending for home- and community-based services versus nursing facilities, according to theScripps Gerontology Center. If Ohio simply met the national average, the state could save $900 million annually in Medicaid costs, according to the Ohio Department of Aging.
“Laura lives the mission of Parma Community General Hospital by striving to provide excellent, personalized care to the participants and families of all of our adult day care programs,” says Kathi O’Connor, vice president of Ancillary& Support Services. “She sets an example of excellence for her staff and peers.”
By paying close attention to the changing community and developing services to meet its needs, Matthews has caught the attention of the WRAAA. She thanks the leadership ofParma Hospital for giving her the opportunity to lead with creative ideas that produce results. “Parma Hospital has always been ahead of the curve in being sensitive to the needs of the community, and we have been encouraged to be creative,” says Matthews. “Many of our families have told us through the years that without day care, they would have had to place Mom or Dad in a nursing home – that there’s no waythey could have handled caregiving without the services that we offer.”
As chairwoman of the hospital’s fundraising committee for the Alzheimer’s Association, Matthews also has spearheaded 10 years of record proceeds donated to aid those coping with this debilitating disease. Parma Hospital’s 10th Annual Spaghetti Cook-off for this cause will be held on Friday, June 19 at the Health Education Center, 7300 State Road, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.