She’s leading a life of service to the elderly at the J

Ashley Stockman

By Patricia Corrigan, Special to the Jewish Light

Growing up in Jefferson City, Ashley Stockman remembers serving as a support person for her grandmother, who had multiple sclerosis. “I walked to her house every day after school, and I spent summers with her,” Stockman said. “Jerry” Branson Baker died in 2003. “Had my family known about adult day program services, Grandma might still be with us.”

The Adult Day Center has been part of the Jewish Community Center for nearly 40 years, and Stockman, 32, is eager for people to understand exactly what it offers. The center is much more than it sounds or even looks like, she says, and the program offers important benefits both to the adults taking part and to caregivers. Participants do not have to be Jewish. (For more details, see

Visiting musicians were playing brass instruments one recent afternoon in the Adult Day Center, so Stockman sought out a quieter place in the building to talk about her work. 


What’s the best part of your job?

At the end of the day, caregivers pick up their loved ones — maybe they are holding birdhouses they painted and they are in a good mood – and I see the caregivers feeling relieved because we have provided them with peace of mind. That makes me want to push that much harder, because I’ve been there, and being a caregiver is the hardest job anybody could ever do. 

You’ve worked in this field for about 10 years, and you say that some people have misconceptions about adult day centers. What is the key misconception?

We provide services that enrich people’s lives, but when a lot of people think about adult day care, the visual they get is one of a human parking lot, a place where caregivers park their human for the day. That’s not what’s going on.

So what is going on?

One of our goals is to provide care that keeps people engaged and stimulated throughout the day. Our activity director is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist and all our activities have a therapeutic focus. We don’t just sit around and watch TV — well, unless we’re watching a 45-minute special on Madagascar or exercising with Wii. Every day, we exercise — the most popular session is Tai Chi — and we have music every day after lunch. 


Does everyone participate? 

We’ve adapted everything — cooking, art, games — to be therapeutically beneficial and can be enjoyed at leisure. We have a wonderful, year-round, wheel-chair-accessible sensory garden with a walking path, a gazebo and an area with a pavilion that can seat 40.  We harvest vegetables and herbs from the garden, and the cooking club uses them to make pesto or salsa. 


And if someone wants to relax alone?

We have three rooms separate from our large room, and we offer an abundance of individual leisure activities. We have large-print magazines and books, mindfulness coloring books and six iPads. What’s unique here is that we also have access to the J’s incredible facility.


How does the Adult Day Center benefit from that?

We offer inter-generational activities with kids in the early childhood child center. The kids and the older adults build things together, or maybe we’ll invite in a magician and have a show or we’ll put on a carnival. Everyone enjoys it, and it’s incredible to see our adults with cognitive impairments come to life when they get together with the kids. 


Who is eligible to enroll?

Anyone who needs assistance with the activities of daily living – individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, stroke, autism, Down syndrome, some cardiac issues, Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis. The nurse on staff does a complete physical assessment and also learns about people’s past occupations, hobbies and interests. 


How many people are enrolled? 

We have a capacity for 50 and right now, we are averaging about 30 a day. Sadly, many people enroll too late and can’t stay in the program very long because of cognitive decline or debilitating illness. We have an incredible staff of 12, but we can’t take anyone who needs one-on-one care. 


What have we not covered about your job?

I am excited about a new program here for young adults with autism, Down syndrome or other disabilities. It’s a concept I’ve been working toward since graduate school, and now the J has made it possible. I have worked a lot of places, but this place is incredible — when a need is identified, people here step up to fill it. 


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