WEIRTON - Mark Knabenshue, executive director of Hancock County Senior Services, was in the kitchen of the new Sunny Day Respite on Thursday talking with Edna Jones.
"So, what do you think?" he asked her.
"I think it's beautiful," Jones said.
CLEAN AND READY TO USE — Edna Jones, center, a trustee at St. Peter’s AME Church in Weirton, handed a refrigerator drawer to Myla Staley, a Hancock County Senior Services employee, on Thursday, while volunteer Angela Csonka cleaned the stove. The women were getting the Sunny Day Respite kitchen ready for today’s open house, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Knabenshue and Jones marveled at the transformation of a building that, until two years ago, was the parsonage of St. Peter's African Methodist Episcopal Church. Soon, the building will serve people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, and their caregivers.
"This gives them a place to drop off their loved one while they go to work, take care of their own medical needs or run errands," Knabenshue said. "Our goal is to provide a rest for families dealing with Alzheimer's."
An open house for Sunny Day Respite, 1052 County Road, is set from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. The center, under the auspices of Hancock County Senior Services, will be open for business within the next two weeks, Knabenshue said, once the West Virginia Office of the State Fire Marshal does its final inspection.
The respite center, in the planning stages since the April 2012 lease-signing, is designed to give a break to family members who care for elderly relatives with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. While the caregiver is away, Sunny Day Respite will provide a safe environment for the Alzheimer's patient, offering services such as meals, task assistance, medication prompts and activities to help with cognition, Knabenshue said.
"We have an entire program that we've developed and will be implementing," he said.
Sunny Day Respite will be staffed by in-home direct care workers who have been trained using the Alzheimer's Association and West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services curriculum. Staffing will be done on a 3-to-1 client-to-staff ratio, Knabenshue said.
"They will be plugged in here on an as-needed basis, based on our census," he said. Hours of operation will be 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The need for respite care has grown as the number of people with Alzheimer's has grown. More than 1,000 people in Hancock County have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, Knabenshue said. With a median age of 45.3, Hancock County has the third-oldest population in the state.
Sunny Day Respite, because of its location, mostly will serve people in Weirton and southern Hancock County. "I hope it takes off," Knabenshue said. "I hope we have several of these throughout Hancock County. There has been a definite need identified."
Hancock County Senior Services had been looking for a building to house a respite center for a while, Knabenshue said, when it learned about an opportunity from board member, the Rev. Eddie McDaniel, pastor of St. Peter's AME Church.
"He knew that we were looking and trying to develop this program," he said.
McDaniel suggested his church's old parsonage, which had sat vacant for two years. Parishioners weren't sure what to do with it.
"We had often thought about renting it out," said Edna Jones, church trustee. "We're glad that we've had an opportunity to work with them. It's been a good arrangement. We're very pleased."
Hancock County Senior Services signed a two-year lease with St. Peter's in April and then began the work of renovating the 1,000-square-foot property and bringing it up to code.
The building has a kitchen, dining room, living room, office, laundry room and two "quiet" rooms. Improvements include an enlarged restroom, new lighting fixtures and upgraded electrical wiring, outside lighting, wheelchair ramps, new floors and fresh interior paint, Knabenshue said.
Qualifying for Sunny Day Respite services requires completing an intake process and a home visit by site Manager Karen Mason.
The cost of respite services is charged on a sliding fee schedule and on a private pay basis at $13 an hour, Knabenshue said. Some private insurers also may cover the costs of respite care.
For information, call (304) 564-3801.