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SSM Health Adult Day Services in Fond du Lac now has its own handivan

The new vehicle will help organization expand and enhance client outings

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November 2, 2023

FOND DU LAC – Thanks to a $33,425 donation from the Agnesian HealthCare Foundation, SSM Health Adult Day Services in Fond du Lac now has its own handivan for client outings and unexpected transportation needs.

The 10-person handicap-accessible vehicle allows Adult Day Services staff to take clients out and about for outings in the City of Fond du Lac and nearby communities.

“Loneliness can have a huge impact on one’s physical health, as well as their mental health,” Julie Schwartz, Adult Day Services supervisor, said. “Activity outings are an important part of helping seniors sustain their physical and mental health.”

Being active, Schwartz said, can improve a person’s mood, sleep and immune system.

“Making friendships, accessing the local community and making those connections can help to decrease isolation and loneliness – two areas where seniors may struggle – if they are lacking in social engagement,” she said.

Schwartz said Adult Day Services had a vehicle many years ago, but it eventually needed repairs, and funds were not available to make the repair.

Since then, Adult Day Services staff borrowed a handivan from one of SSM’s long-term care facilities – but it wasn’t always available when they wanted to use it.

Schwartz said if Adult Day Services staff were scheduled to use the van and something came up for the long-term care facility, they would have to cancel their outing, in turn, disappointing the clients who’d signed up for it.

Julie Schwartz said activity outings are an important part of helping seniors sustain their physical and mental health. Submitted Photo

“Having our own handivan creates the opportunity for us to do more impromptu outings because we don’t have to schedule the van,” she said. “And it provides us with a better opportunity to give our clients access to the local broader community.”

Schwartz said their clients have welcomed the handivan with great enthusiasm.

“Our clients feel proud to ride in a van that advertises our name and shows off our great program,” she said. “Families and staff are also grateful we have the ability to offer outings on a more spontaneous basis as we no longer need to coordinate shared-use schedules.”

Shawn Fisher, executive director of the Agnesian HealthCare Foundation, said the intent behind the foundation’s donation was to support the areas of “greatest need within the healthcare ministry.”

“We try to communicate with all of the internal departments within SSM (to determine what and where the needs are),” she said. “This was a need Julie (Schwartz) uncovered to help us care for that population of people who visit Adult Day Services. We were excited and grateful to be able to support such an awesome purchase that helps not just maintain, but enhance the quality of life of these clients.”

Fisher said the community is fortunate to have services such as Adult Day Services.

“Through this new handivan, we are able to support clients in taking advantage of the many experiences available locally and to continue creating new memories for each person we serve,” she said.

Reach is far and wide
Schwartz said Adult Day Services is a unique day program in that it is both a medical and social model – which meets the healthcare, personal care and socialization needs of the elderly, chronically ill and disabled.

Clients include individuals 18 years and older (the oldest they ever had was 98 years old) who need to be monitored and treated for health concerns, are recovering from hospital care or need someone to watch them while a loved one works or takes a needed break.

“We go by the name Adult Day Services and do not consider ourselves an adult daycare, however, under the Wisconsin regulations, we are called an ADCC (adult daycare center),” Schwartz said. “Many of the adult daycare centers in Wisconsin are strictly social models, but we’re also a medical model.”

As a registered nurse, Schwartz supervises the program.

Julie Schwartz

“We also have a full-time LPN (licensed practical nurse), and our other staff members are all CNAs (certified nursing assistants),” she said. “It’s unique and exceptional to be both a medical and a social model.”

Schwartz said it’s also unique to be supported by a nonprofit Catholic healthcare organization.

“I feel if we were not part of (SSM Health), it would be a big struggle to be a medical model because it would be hard to be supported with medically-trained staff,” she said. “That makes this program and the care we give exceptional. Other adult daycare centers might not be a medical model because they might not be able to support paying a staff that is medically trained.”

Because Schwartz and her staff can administer medication, SSM’s Adult Day Services provide a lot of care clients might need and may notice early signs of a medical condition with a client.

“If the staff sees a client may be experiencing or developing a medical condition, they can immediately take the necessary steps and help the family navigate early diagnosis and treatment…,” she said. “The age group we serve is often an older population, so early identification is important.”

Overall, Schwartz said Adult Day Services serves 40-45 clients and their families – with an average of about 20-23 people at the facility daily.

“They might need to be here while a loved one is working or might just need some respite time,” she said. “While we don’t only serve clients with dementia, that is a large population whose needs we serve.”

Schwartz said the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that between 2020-25, there will be an 8.3% increase in people 65 and older diagnosed with dementia.

“And it’s going to keep increasing,” she said. “People are living longer, and when you have an aging brain, it’s a fact we’re going to see more dementia. But this is a safe environment for someone’s loved one to go to whatever their situation may be. We also serve individuals who need to be treated or monitored for health concerns.”

Located at 420 E. Merrill Ave. in Fond du Lac, Adult Day Services is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Adult Day Services is a fee-based program with more information available at

Outings, services offered at facility
Schwartz said Adult Day Services staff regularly take clients on outings – with different clients going on different outings, depending on their interests and availability.

Some outings include going to get ice cream at different ice cream shops in and around Fond du Lac, going out to eat, picnics at local parks during summer months, bowling, going to the movie theater and shopping trips at local thrift stores.

Schwartz said they also do a fall color drive at Kettle Moraine to see the changing leaves, then stop at an apple orchard on the way back home.

They’ve also gone to the Veterans Museum in Oshkosh.

“Having this handivan opens the door to a multitude of possibilities,” she said.

Schwartz said when not on outings, clients at the facility also enjoy playing cards and a variety of other games.

“Some people may think their loved one can’t play certain games,” she said. “But three of my staff members have been here for more than 22 years and they modify the games so clients of any level of ability can participate. They’ve learned over the years what works and what doesn’t.”

Clients, Schwartz said, can also take virtual trips all over the world by using the facility’s iN2L (It’s Never too Late to Learn) system.

Adult Day Services is a day program in that it is both a medical and social model – which meets the healthcare, personal care and socialization needs of the elderly, chronically ill and disabled. Submitted Photo

The system – which was recently rebranded to LifeLoop – she said, enhances the quality of clients’ lives by promoting dignity through technology and helps them connect with the world around them by letting them view live webcams anywhere in the world.

“We have a 66-inch monitor and use this system to take virtual tours of places and things anywhere in the world,” she said. 

The nationally recognized system, Schwartz said, is a touchscreen computer program specially designed for seniors and includes a content library of exercises for memory care and activities for speech, physical and occupational therapy sessions, interactive games and wellness activities.

Schwartz said the system also makes technology programs, like email and Skype, easy and more enjoyable to use.

There are more than 4,600 applications to choose from.

“There are also many live webcams our clients can enjoy,” Schwartz said. “For example, this past spring, they saw baby eagles in a nest, and they were able to watch the mom feeding her babies. Our clients love this stuff.”

The iN2L system, Schwartz said, was another gift from the foundation.

The program itself was initially about $17,000, plus an annual subscription of approximately $3,000 to $4,000 to cover the cost of the content that clients can access – all funded by the foundation.

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