Quality Family Care a home away from home

Every morning, Nancy Dent of Houston reads the Observer-Reporter to seniors at Quality Family Care in Canonsburg. David Dear of Peters Township and Rosella Lytle of Strabane sit near Nancy as she reads to them. Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter
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CANONSBURG – It’s a testament to the compassionate care that Darlah Gazvoda provides in her home that family members of former clients are now part of her staff.

Even a former staff member is now a client.

“Her family couldn’t get her out of the house for a year,” Darlah said. “Now she thinks she’s just going to work.”

Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter One of the perks for women at Quality Family Care is a manicure. Anna Phillips, left, of McDonald gets her nails done by Jane Schneider, a volunteer at Quality Family Care in Canonsburg.
Darlah operates Quality Family Care, a state-licensed “mom-and-pop” adult day care that she opened in October 1995 when her mother-in-law needed help.

“A lot of people at that time didn’t know about adult day care,” Darlah said. “For some reason, nobody seems to understand that it’s a stepping stone from your own home to a nursing home. If there’s no adult day care, they go from home to a nursing home.”

And that’s a shame, Darlah said, considering what adult day care has to offer.

Her clients are always involved in some type of activity, whether it’s playing bingo, tending their backyard garden or merely stringing Cheerios to feed the birds.

“It’s exercising their fingers,” Darlah said. “It’s something they’re doing, and they’re not watching the clock.”

David Dear of Peters Township loves to go outside and work in the garden at Quality Family Care in Canonsburg David waters the plants early in the afteroon at the home. Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter
In the summer, they enjoy lemonade socials on the deck, and Darlah is looking for rubber horseshoes to play indoors. (They skid easily on the floor, she said.)

Darlah, however, takes great pride in the intergenerational projects she’s developed with the elementary schools in the Canon-McMillan School District. At Easter, Halloween and Christmas, clients assemble baskets for the youngsters. They also make scarves for the Washington Women’s Shelter and fleece tie blankets for abused children in Washington County.

“We always try to do what we can,” Darlah said. “It shows that they’re needed, and they love being around other people. I always say, ‘Let’s make it fun.’ If they’re smiling, it’s worth a million dollars to me. It shows they’re comfortable and they want to be here.”

Darlah can count Dorothy Zingale among her many happy clients. Dorothy, 73, has been coming to Quality Family Care for nearly two years. She started out five days a week, and is now down to seven hours a day, four days a week.

“I missed all the ladies,” Dorothy said Monday afternoon, her first day back at Quality Family Care after spending three weeks in Presbyterian SeniorCare recovering from pneumonia. “I like coming here. I’m happy where I am. I like to laugh and joke, and laugh and joke. Otherwise, I’d sit and cry.”

Dorothy lives with her daughter, Tammy Price, in Houston. She suffers from short-term memory loss, the result of a head injury she sustained 20 years ago in a diabetic-related fall. Dorothy no longer takes medication, controlling her diabetes with her diet. However, she can’t be left alone because she tends to wander, and she quickly forgets conversations.

Tammy found Quality Family Care in the phone book when she started inquiring about adult day care programs, and she’s so glad she did.

“We’re together all the time, so we were having the same conversation,” said Tammy, explaining why she enrolled Dorothy in an adult day care program. “Mom isn’t a lot of work, but nobody wants to be together 24 hours a day. It gets depressing if you’re just sitting around. I want her to have a life.”

Adult day care allows Tammy to work uninterrupted from her family’s home-based business, and it gives her mother an opportunity to meet other people.

“Sometimes I worry that I’m too much for Tammy,” Dorothy said. “I was a little nervous, but I think it was a good idea to come here. It gives Tammy time to do other things.”

What Tammy likes most about Quality Family Care is the “family atmosphere.” The staff includes Darlah’s 79-year-old mother, Sarah Troutman, an assistant administrator who lives in an apartment in the 27-room house. She makes breakfast and lunch for the clients, and she provides them with a snack. Darlah’s daughter and husband also are involved, and photographs of Darlah’s family are plentiful on the walls and tables.

There is no carpeting in the common areas, making it easier to maneuver walkers, and the furniture is made of leather, which makes cleanup easy when clients have accidents. Someone once marveled at the fact no plastic covers the furniture. Darlah was stunned. “Everything here is replaceable,” she said. “Would you want to sit on furniture covered in plastic? I wouldn’t want to. It’s not institutionalized. This is a home away from home, and we’ve got to keep it that way.”

Quality Family Care is licensed for 12 clients, and it is always near capacity. Two to three staff members are on duty at all times, more than the 1-to-7 staff-to-client ratio required by the state. Hours are weekdays 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays by appointment. Arrangements also can be made for extended hours.

Darlah hopes that one day her grandchildren will take over the business.

“You touch so many people’s lives,” Darlah said, “and what does it cost you? A hug and a kiss.”