FORT MYERS, Fla. - When Sunrise Community Center closes its doors at the end of the month, director Crista Stouffer says she can rest assured her patients are in good hands.
"Clearly I was shocked when we learned we were going to close," Stouffer told WINK News. "We've been in business 14 years."
The Miami-based company made the decision to shutter its Fort Myers adult day center after Medicaid funding was slashed from nearly $90 a day, per patient, to $50 a day.
Those who rely on the Sunrise Community Center include elderly men and women with disabilities and complex medical conditions, such as Alzheimers. Those among the easiest to care for were soon placed with other daycare facilities in the area. But those needing the closest and most persistent attention faced the potential of going to a nursing home.
"I had a fellow in here who has been married to his wife for 70 years," Stouffer said. "He told me he and his wife will not be going to a nursing home."
Thanks to Loving Heart Adult Day Care, they won't have to. Owner Miguel Diaz, a registered nurse, has known Stouffer for several years. When he heard of her plight, he stepped in to help.
"He picked up the phone and said, 'Let me help you out,'" Stouffer recalls. "He came and spent a full day here doing assessments on our members, and I don't think we have anybody left that we still have to place."
Starting in September, Loving Heart will offer its services to Sunrise clients who otherwise might not find a local adult daycare.
"We are preparing our center for the medical issues," Diaz told WINK News. "Most of the people [coming from Sunrise] are medically compromised."
Loving Heart is a predominately Spanish-language center. But Diaz sees an opportunity to grow and integrate. He intends to maximize his 4-thousand square foot facility to hold up to 60 daycare members, the number of slots available, according to his state license. Diaz has plans to start a language program, and says will reconfigure parts of the building to ensure adequate space for various activities.
Diaz is also hiring some of the employees who will be leaving Sunrise at the end of August.
"Most of the employees [at Sunrise] have been there for 10 to 20 years," he said. "It's really hard for them to lose their job."
Diaz and Stouffer agree, bringing Sunrise employees over to Loving Heart will also ease the transition for many already familiar with their names and faces, particularly those with Alzheimers or Dimentia.
Although Sunrise will officially close its doors on August 29th, Stouffer says a small staff will remain behind just long enough to ensure medical records are properly transfered and archived.