For the past 12 years Debbie Scott has cared for people in every way imaginable at an adult day health services center in Oklahoma City. She’s monitored their diets, bathed them, organized activities, cooked meals and shared in their laughter.
She’s even made a habit of greeting them at the door each morning.
Scott, 53, is a natural caregiver who could easily pass as an ambassador for the adult day health services industry. The reason is simple. She once turned to an adult day center to help her ailing mother.
“I always tell people I understand the needs of the clients and their families,” Scott said. “I was one of them.”
Scott’s journey into the adult day health services system occurred just as it does for most people – out of necessity. In 1995, doctors said her mother, Zelda, was showing the early signs of dementia and could no longer stay home alone. Scott faced some tough decisions. She and her husband, David, made a commitment to care for Zelda in their home along with their two daughters, Kim and Lindsey.
Debbie Scott quit her part-time job as a commercial real estate broker to care for the woman who once cared for her.
The arrangement took its toll. Scott struggled to balance the roles of mother, wife, daughter and caregiver, but survived out of sheer will and love. Then one day a friend offered a solution.
“We were at a softball game, and since I never left my mother at home, my friend saw her sitting in the car under a shade tree,” Scott recalled.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you take her to adult day care?’ I didn’t even know what that was at the time. Turns out I lived right down the street from one, and didn’t even know it. So I looked into it, and before I knew it, I was taking my mother there a few hours a day.
“At first, I just kind of eased her into it to see if she would like it. After a while, she couldn’t wait to go.”
The center helped Scott – and her mother – restore their lives.
“My mom made new friends at the center, and it gave her a social outlet,” Scott said. “And it let me have the freedom to be a mom and wife again. I was trying to be a mother, wife and daughter all at the same time, and finding I had no time for any of them. The center gave me a break.
“Now I was only answering the same question from my mother 15 times instead of 100 times. It allowed me to have quality time again with her when she came home at night.”
Zelda died in 1997. By the end of that year Scott was working part-time at the Daily Living Center in Oklahoma City, realizing she had found her calling.
“In this line of work, a person won’t get rich,” Scott said. “But the way my heart feels at the end of the day means more to me than an extra dollar an hour. I found that at the end of the day I helped make a person’s life better.”