Pathways offers alternative to nursing home

By Pat Shaver

IOWA CITY—Anne Peacock’s mother, Ruth, has been a regular at Pathways Adult Day Health Center for nine years.

Ruth, now 91, was diagnosed with dementia. Anne Peacock served as her mother’s primary caregiver, which was a continued stress while she was also working as a certified nurse midwife for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

“It was incredible how quickly she went downhill,” Ms. Peacock said.

When her mother took a bad fall, sprained both her arms and hit her head, Ms. Peacock knew it was time to consider care options.

It was either a nursing home, where her mother would live, or Pathways, where her mother would be taken care of during the day while still being able to live at home.

Pathways assists clients who are experiencing arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, vision loss, depression, stroke impairments and other conditions and helps them live independently. The organization reduces the overall cost of long-term care by offering an affordable alternative.

“It’s a really long process to realize we got a major problem here and where do we go from here,” Ms. Peacock said, who is also vice chair of Pathways’ board of directors.

The facility, at 817 Pepperwood Lane in Iowa City, was renovated in 2010. That created the capacity to serve 55 people daily. Jeff Kellbach, Pathways’ executive director, said the center has an average of 40 people a day.

“The gal has just blossomed,” Ms. Peacock said about her mother. “Now, wild horses couldn’t keep her away. Mom went from a catatonic person to a really involved person.”

That’s not unusual for the people at Pathways, Mr. Kellbach said.

“An undervalued thing that people don’t realize is that socialization is huge,” he said.

There is a lot of anxiety and stress for people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or people recovering from a stroke, he said.

“After a couple of weeks here, they develop some really meaningful relationships,” Mr. Kellbach said.

Ms. Peacock saw first-hand how those interactions improved her mother’s demeanor. One client, for example, noted that he could see how his wife would go to Pathways during the week and then would regress on the weekends at home.

“I see that with mom. Having folks around all the time keeps people on the top of their game,” she said. “There are people here that are challenging them. The place is so reliable. I could have never continued to work.”

One of the organization’s struggles is just getting the word out about what they offer, Mr. Kellbach said.

“A big part for us is we try to do what we can so that someone can stay in their home for as long as they can,” Mr. Kellbach said. “I won’t say we’re a replacement for a nursing home, but it’s another option.”

Clients at Pathways can participate in a variety of weekly and daily activities, including a book club, cooking club, Bingo, card games, knitting club, spa days, music therapy and exercise, among other activities.

“The hard thing for the caregiver is the guilt if they do look for services,” Mr. Kellbach said. “They think they shouldn’t need this help and they should be able to do it on their own. Seeking some help does not mean you’re not still a caregiver.”

There are fewer than 30 adult day facilities in Iowa, Mr. Kellbach said. There is potential
for another Pathways facility in the Corridor, possible in Coralville or North Liberty, he said. There is a need now, but Mr. Kellbach doesn’t see a second facility  locally for five-10 years.

Pathways is funded mostly through client fees, which accounts for about three-fourths
of the revenue. The center also operates on donations. The center has nine employees and about 12 volunteers.

Pathways is a program of Pentacrest Inc., under ABBE Aging Services. For more information, visit