Sherry Shereck has dedicated the last ten years of her career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) to serving clients in KANDU’s day services program, a state-certified, activities-based program for elderly adults with disabilities and memory impairments.
Clients in day services are provided both daily living skills support, like reality orientation activities, sensory stimulation, and exercise, as well as enriching communal activities like cooking classes, fishing, painting, and community trips, all facilitated by professional staff including CNAs like Sherry, and professional case managers.
“One of my favorite parts of KANDU’s day services program is the commitment to getting clients active out in the community. We offer a personalized environment for our clients, and I take great pride in coordinating a community outing schedule that each person is excited about,” said Sherry. Monthly activities calendars are carefully curated by staff to accommodate all client interests and abilities. “It’s a rewarding experience to see clients interact with community members and feel included,” Sherry explained.
Social connections are especially important for elderly adults, who may experience loneliness after retirement or other life events. Loneliness and social isolation have been associated with adverse health outcomes including depression, anxiety, and dementia, according to the CDC. Elderly adults are particularly vulnerable to social isolation due to a variety of factors, like living alone, losing loved ones, managing chronic illnesses, and memory care issues.
“Clients are not only forming bonds with staff and peers in their immediate programs; KANDU promotes intergenerational programming so that our elderly clients in day services can connect with younger clients (ages 14+) in the Livin’ and Learnin’ program,” explained client services director, Julie Smith. The groups often pair up for community outings like rooting for the Beloit Skycarp at ABC Supply Baseball Stadium or taking a trip to the Henry Vilas Zoo.
Different KANDU programs often collaborate, thanks to excellent communication among dedicated staff who all have one common aim – ensuring the best opportunities for KANDU clients. “Sherry is the definition of a team player. She not only meets every client where they are, but she is a supportive co-worker and is always willing to lend a helping hand to another department or program,” said Carmen Jones, KANDU day services program manager.
Outside of her work in day services, Sherry has supported clients as a job coach in KANDU’s community employment program, where adults with disabilities build independence through employment at local businesses. She also assisted clients on KANDU’s production floor during the pandemic, when Covid-19 caused many organizations across the country to close temporarily.
“It’s fulfilling to witness a client gain confidence in themselves over time. There are still clients in the community employment and prevocational programs I worked with a couple years ago that ask when I’m coming back to work with them. Seeing the impact I can make through personal connection is very motivating, so I make a point to genuinely engage with as many clients as possible,” said Sherry.
“Sherry always goes above and beyond for our clients. Her positive attitude lights up everyone around her,” said Carmen. KANDU is lucky to have devoted staff like Sherry in the day services program, which is poised to expand to accommodate an aging generation. Reports show that by 2040, Rock County’s population of individuals age 85+ is expected to increase by 120%. The number of Rock County residents with dementia is expected to increase by 110%. Supportive care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will be a critical issue for many families in Wisconsin.
“If I had one piece of advice for anyone, it would be to never lose a learning mentality. Some of the best ideas at KANDU have come from client-staff collaboration, or colleagues bringing two different skill sets together. There are so many opportunities to build a better future for our clients and our community if we are willing to learn from one another,” advised Sherry.
Plans to build a better future are already underway. In May of 2023, KANDU finalized the purchase of the former Blackhawk Technical College advanced manufacturing training facility and will move services to the new location in 2024. The new building encompasses an additional 30,000 square feet for day services, allowing KANDU to double the number of clients served in the adult day care and increased support programs and better serve the greater Rock County community.