Spotlight on a Charitable Heart
With 10,000 people in the U.S. turning 65 every single day, the need for senior care is growing exponentially. There has been a proliferation of home care agencies in the Greater Sacramento area in the last few years, but that only helps those that are fortunate enough to have the funds to pay for a full time caregiver, which can run from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month. Assisted and independent living facilities are also popping up at a booming rate, but at a minimum of $2500 and up, not everyone can afford this option either. There is a growing need to support the thousands of senior citizens that cannot afford care and are falling through the cracks. Fortunately there are people in our communities that have charitable hearts and heed this call, forsaking their own materialistic opportunities for gain and putting the needs of this burgeoning senior community above their own. One of those people is my dear friend Wanda Demarest.
Wanda is the Program Supervisor of the Placerville Senior Day Care Service of El Dorado County. She has been at this post since August 28th 1989 when the day care program opened its doors. I first met Wanda over ten years ago when she was heading the divorce care program at Green Valley Church in Placerville. I learned quickly what a huge heart this woman has for those that are suffering, and that it is a higher calling that drives her to make this a better world.
Back in the 1970’s, she began her career in Silicon Valley, juggling a career in marketing and customer service while trying to raise 2 small kids and help support her family, while her former husband was working with the developmentally disabled. That all changed in the early 1980’s when they moved to El Dorado County and she saw a classified ad for an activities director at what was then El Dorado Convalescent Hospital (now Western Slope Health Center). Her first reaction walking in the door was “no way, I can’t do this.” But God had other plans. The opportunity kept presenting itself until she finally went through with the application process and took the position. She went to school every Saturday, working Monday through Friday during the week, and completed her internship of 36 hours to complete her certificate. She fell in love with her new calling, seeing how badly our older generation needs more care than the system or even a lot of families provide them.
She served for a time as the Senior Information and Referral Coordinator of El Dorado County, which offered free lending of Medical equipment (wheel chairs, Oxygen supplies, walkers…) until the program was shut down because of liability concerns. Then in 1988 the county put out a request for a Senior Director of their developing Senior Day Care program. She developed their first budget and set out on a fundraising program. Within six months the program was self-supporting.
Wanda supervises a staff of 63 volunteers and 8 paid staff member. Any business person reading this realizes what a huge job that is for one person. In March of this year she opened El Dorado Counties other day care center in El Dorado Hills.
When asked about her fondest memories at the center, Wands didn’t hesitate to tell me about one of her first guests at the day care center who had suffered and aneurysm, couldn’t walk, and needed a wheel chair for mobility. Working volunteer speech pathologists and physical therapist, it took 3 people to help her walk. After a few months of therapy, attention, and love, this guests was able to walk in and out of the building on her own.
Wanda believes that everyone has the ability to improve, that there are no helpless cases, and everyone can be reached, no matter how far gone they seem. She finds it inspiring every day to see how the seniors in her program strive to help each other as well.
We all owe Wanda, and all those that sacrifice their own personal gains to take care of our seniors, a huge debt of gratitude. With the need for senior caring growing so fast we are going to need a lot more like her to keep our elderly parents and neighbors safe, healthy, and experiencing the highest quality of life possible.