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Administrator Award

This award recognizes adult day center administrators/directors who have demonstrated outstanding leadership within their centers and their communities. This award is given to an administrator or director who has given at least 5 years of service to an adult day services center. 

Barbara Zeis, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, St. Paul, MN

Barbara Zeis

Barbara Zeis

While working some 35 years in the Adult Day Services Center of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation (Wilder), Program Manager Barb Zeis has championed the principle of providing programming options that complement and extend life at home for older adults. Barb started her career when adult day centers were a totally new concept in home and community-based services, and she was a forerunner for integrating occupational therapy in the work.

Person-centered care is the innovative model Wilder adopted, and Barb seizes every opportunity to match the Center’s programming with the abilities of each participant. A cognitive performance test/occupational therapy assessment ensures that staff knows what every person can do and which activities can best meet their needs. The assessment results are also shared with families so they can tailor activities at home. Using a holistic approach, the Center provides comprehensive health, therapy, and memory loss programs, as well as creative social, recreational, and arts programs tailored to each participant, which improves health outcomes and enhances quality of life. Barb and her team share a passion for helping older adults maintain independence in the community for as long as possible, and they accomplish it through creative programs and partnerships.

Barb works with dozens of partners to provide evidence-based creative arts and other activities that improve cognitive and physical functioning for the Center’s participants. Intergenerational programs with a local middle school and child development center and arts programs with a folk musician, mixed media artist, dance theatre, art institute, and women’s drum center are some examples. The Center’s creative arts programming grew out of Barb’s desire to engage older adults in creative self-expression…to go beyond “arts and crafts” and provide programming that would challenge, captivate, and energize. As Barb integrates such programming at the Center, staff witnesses firsthand the impact on the older adults. Some quite literally “come alive.” Elders who are confined to wheelchairs begin swaying to the beat. People with dementia who rarely speak begin to express themselves through words and gestures.

In a two-year partnership with HealthPartners (MN-based HMO), Barb established on-site primary care with an on-call geriatric nurse practitioner and health monitoring via Wilder’s staff nurse, occupational therapist, social workers, and program staff. This endeavor has resulted in a re-hospitalization rate among program participants that is one-half the state’s average for other low-income older adults.

Through partnerships with local colleges and universities, Barb provides ongoing educational opportunities for students in health and human services disciplines. In recent years, when more and more of the Center’s participants were experiencing memory loss, Barb quickly introduced Alzheimer’s/dementia training and support models to her staff so they could serve both the person with dementia and their family caregivers.

Wilder’s Adult Day Center caregivers report a much higher quality of life for their loved one from having remained in the community and avoided nursing home placement. It is no wonder that Barb serves as her state association’s representative to the MN Department of Human Services’ Seniors Stakeholder Advisory Committee in Managed Care.

Posted in NADSA Awards