Ginny Terra’s family has made sacrifices to keep the 69-year-old enrolled in Huntington’s Adult Day Care program, particularly since prices went up earlier this year, because it’s helped the Huntington Station resident remain active and social since being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Would it be better if the town subsidized part of it, or it wasn’t so expensive? Sure,” said David Terra, Ginny Terra’s son. “But it’s a priority. If you cut corners elsewhere to make it work, that’s what we need to do, because it’s been a positive force in our family.”

The cost went up to $50 a day in January, the first increase in a decade, officials said. Costs include transportation to and from Adult Day Care for Huntington residents, as well as entertainment and supervision for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease during the week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Terra and other families have said they struggle to pay for Adult Day Care — often the last alternative to a nursing home.

Program supervisor Amy Geist said she is not aware of any seniors dropping out of the program due to the cost, but the town is taking action to try to ease the financial burden for clients most in need.

Rachel Michaelis, right, an assistant program supervisor at the Huntington Adult Day Care, helps Norbert Fluhler, of Huntington Station on June 5, 2017. Photo Credit: Chris Ware

Huntington officials are pursuing a $5,000 six-month grant that would create need-based scholarships to help subsidize the program for some families. Officials will know this summer if they won the funding from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

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On any given day, seniors at the town’s Adult Day Care Center can be found painting, stretching and exercising, or even dancing to Little Richard.

“When they come here, especially on a regular basis, it helps with their routine,” Geist said. “For people with dementia, being in a routine — familiarity — is very important.”

The program also provides a welcome break for caregivers, often the only way they can juggle those responsibilities with work and other household duties.

“It’s not only an educational and caregiving program for the senior, but it’s also a respite for the family,” Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said.

Terry Sicard, 59, of South Huntington said she wants to keep her father, Norbert Fluhler, 92, at home with her for as long as possible, and Adult Day Care has been critical to that end.

The cost has them “going through his money pretty fast,” but it’s making it possible for her father to live with her instead of going to a nursing home, she said.

“That would wipe out all of his savings in a very short period of time, not to mention it would not be the best thing for him,” Sicard said.

It can be difficult to get financial assistance for Adult Day Care through Medicaid, Geist said.

“Medicaid requires that an additional level of care be provided in order to pay for Adult Day Care,” she said. “For instance, if the person has a home aide paid for through Medicaid, then Medicaid will also approve attendance at Adult Day Care.

“Part of the challenge is the individual may not need home care assistance because they are high-functioning or they have a caregiver — spouse [or] adult child — who provides the assistance, if needed,” Geist said.

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This becomes an obstacle, because some families don’t want an aide in the house unnecessarily, she said. The issue can be further complicated because sometimes Medicaid has difficulty finding seniors a home aide to provide the additional care, which then rules out coverage for Adult Day Care.

“In the past, a few members had to leave our program to attend a medical model Adult Day Care because they can provide the additional care required by Medicaid through the facility’s nursing staff,” Geist said. “It’s easy for medical-models to provide the nursing care since they are typically located in long-term care facilities. The cost difference between social and medical Adult Day Care is large.”

Private insurance doesn’t typically cover Adult Day Care either, except for some long-term care plans, and that coverage varies, Geist said.

For now, families are still finding a way to afford day care, because it’s more appealing than the other options.

“The alternative would be devastating, because the alternative would be putting him in a nursing home,” Sicard said of her father. “I think he is in the best environment here with us.”