Edna Harter, 89, who suffered a stroke last Christmas Eve, reads with her granddaughters, Katie, 12, left, and Allison, 14. Harter is a regular participant at the Yolo Adult Day Health Center, which provides stimulating activities and conversations for her while her caregivers — primarily family members — get some respite. Courtesy photo
By Special to The Enterprise
“It takes a village” usually refers to the extended community needed to raise youngsters, but the concept applies to the care of aging generations as well.
Blues fans who turn out to see Kyle Rowland perform with his band at the 12th annual Blues Harvest on Friday evening will be part of that “village” because proceeds raised at the event directly benefit the Yolo Adult Day Health Center.
Lynn Harter-Killmer and her brother, Mark Harter, from Elk Grove, have come to depend upon a village of caregivers on behalf of their mother, Edna Harter. It’s a situation that has brought the siblings closer together.
Edna Harter is 89 years old and has lived in the Davis area for 46 years. She and her husband owned an auto dealership from 1963 to 1988, and when it sold, they traveled the world together. Her daughter describes her mom as a homemaker, and her parents’ relationship as a close one.
“They were synched at the hip until he died in 1998,” she recalls.
Harter continued to live independently, but concern that her house posed problems for aging in place safely — too many stairs and no downstairs bedroom — prompted Harter-Killmer’s family to relocate just one mile away from Harter. One month later, on Christmas Eve 2012, Harter suffered a stroke.
Although Harter made it to the hospital in time to receive treatment to reduce the stroke’s overall effects, she was left confused and agitated. After a brief stint at the University Retirement Community for rehabilitation, Edna Harter found herself back home.
What followed for Harter-Killmer is unfortunately all too familiar to families dealing with aging relatives. Harter’s daughter spent the next 27 days caring for her mother, 24/7. Harter became easily frustrated and confused and experienced sundowners syndrome, where a multitude of behavioral problems coincides with the setting sun. She also experienced residual weakness on her left side. Medication modification under the direction of Harter’s physician, Dr. Michael McCloud, alleviated some of the problems, but not all.
The change in routine required when Harter stayed the night at her daughter’s house magnified her confusion, so the family opted to have Harter continue to stay in her own home. Harter-Killmer found some respite through a network of friends, who helped her find a daytime caregiver to stay with her mother several days a week and another to spend the night each night. They also helped her discover another source of respite: the Yolo Adult Day Health Center.
What the center offers, Harter-Killmer says, is “a few hours to breathe, … time to catch up on things related to our mother’s care and well-being. … I have a break and can be involved with my children’s school and after-school activities like I did before my mother’s stroke.”
For 29 years, the Yolo Adult Day Health Center, located in Woodland, has offered nursing care, psycho-social support, physical, occupational and speech therapy and socialization to frail elderly and disabled adults.
The center includes transportation as part of its services and at first, that was the only thing that appealed to Harter — riding the bus to and from the center! After a few months, she started making new friends and talking more with the staff each day, stimulating activities that both Harter-Killmer and her brother hope will help Harter’s brain heal.
“The YADHC has filled a gap for my mother, giving her new people to visit with and new activities to try each day,” Harter-Killmer says. “It gives us new things to talk about with her each day, too.”
Harter-Killmer believes her mother knows that the center provides a safe environment with qualified health professionals to watch over her. And she’s come to see it as fun place she can go to. That means it’s one of the best places she can be to help recover from her stroke.
Although Harter-Killmer’s entire family — husband Don and daughters Allison, 14, and Katie, 12 — help with Edna’s daily care, the task falls primarily on Lynn’s shoulders. Tending to her mother means time away from her own family, which continues to be hard for Harter-Killmer.
“There’s always so much to do; I’m always on the run,” she says.
Edna’s grandchildren love their grandmother and are sad for her, but have coped with Lynn’s taking on the role of a time-consuming caregiver. Harter-Killmer believes it’s good for them to have this experience. But Lynn has said up front: “If this ever happens to me, I apologize now.”
The hardest part for Harter-Killmer on a personal level is recognizing that “the person who kept the memories of me is slipping away. She has all my childhood stories. You now have to remember your parents and all the stories and all the things you did together.”
The Blues Harvest helps keep the Yolo Adult Day Health Center’s doors open to ensure that people like Edna continue to receive the care they need and the Harter-Killmer family the respite they deserve. Revenue from government reimbursement and income from private-pay participants is not enough to cover continually rising health care costs.
Organized by Friends of Adult Day Health Care, an all-volunteer, Yolo County-based nonprofit, the Blues Harvest takes place Friday at the Heidrick Ag History Center, 1962 Hays Lane in Woodland. Sharing the stage with Rowland will be special guest Barry “the Fish” Melton. Also on tap for the evening’s entertainment are the Blue Tones, and Cat Austin and Matthew Harrel with Rob Gonsalves.
The event features a gourmet buffet dinner, an auction for a Kauai vacation, a Las Vegas getaway, a chance to meet talk show host Jay Leno and VIP tickets to one of his last live performances on the “Tonight Show,” and a beer tasting with noted beer authority Charlie Bamforth of UC Davis.
Doors open at 6:30. Tickets are $50 and available at Avid Reader Active, 605 Second St.; Watermelon Music, 527 Main St. in Woodland; and the Yolo Adult Day Health Center, 20 N. Cottonwood St. in Woodland.
For more information, call 530-666-8828. Auction updates are posted on the Friends of Adult Day Health Care website, www.friendsofadultdayhealth.org.