February 2019’s LeadingAge Catalyst

Joy’s House

Indianapolis, IN

Serving Older Adults and Supporting Family Caregivers

“We have caregiver reunions. We just held one a couple of weeks ago, and we had 42 caregivers who signed up—their loved ones were no longer in our care—to come back for a family reunion to have a meal and spend the evening with us. If your love bucket was running low, that filled it.”

Those are the words of Tina McIntosh, president, CEO, and founder of Joy’s House, an adult day provider in Indianapolis. The award-winning organization is known for its warm, family atmosphere, its strong caregiver education program, and its weekly radio show.

This year, Joy’s House is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A non-medical program, the organization serves 35-40 “Guests” (their term, capitalized, for clients) per day at 2 sites. It has 35 employees, 16 of them direct-care workers.

The organization’s largest and first site operates in a converted 19-century farmhouse in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis. (The yellow section in the photo above is the original building.) Additions have brought the building to nearly 12,000 square feet, with 4,000 square feet of space devoted to guest services.

Joy's House at UIndy is the second site, which had been an adult day program run by another organization until 3 years ago, when Joy’s House absorbed it.

According to Mandy Williams, community engagement director for Joy’s House, 75-80% of the guests are older adults living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. “We also have a handful who are younger adults,” she says, “who may have developmental delays, Down syndrome, mild cognitive impairment, or cerebral palsy, for instance.”

Most guests are private pay; others attend via a Medicaid waiver, Older Americans Act Title III funds, or the Indiana Community and Home Options to Institutional Care for the Elderly and Disabled (CHOICE) Program.

“We also have a scholarship fund, so we have never turned away a guest,” says Williams.

A host of volunteers also serve guests, racking up almost 2,500 hours of volunteer time in 2018.

The Joy’s House CARE program (“Consistency, Advocacy, Reassurance, Education”) is a new effort designed to make life easier for family caregivers. For a modest annual fee, participating caregivers receive a care kit—a binder containing a variety of information about their loved one—that includes templates for recording information about medicines or sleep patterns, as well as contact information for other family members or doctors. The program also offers caregiver reunions, support groups, help in evaluating other caregiving options (such as nursing homes), and more.

Public information is the last piece of the caregiver puzzle. Caregiver Crossing is a radio show that features a local radio personality, Terri Stacy, along with McIntosh and/or Candace Preston, caregiver support services director for Joy's House. The show appears on WIBC-FM, 93.1, every Saturday at 7 a.m., though it is actually recorded on Tuesdays. (Listen to past episodes at the link.)

The show began in 2012 with a local host and was called “The Sandwich Generation.” After the host left to be a full-time caregiver to his mother, he offered the rights to the show to Joy’s House. It was rebranded as Caregiver Crossing in 2013 and has been broadcasting since then. Nielson numbers indicate that the show had 200,000 unique listeners in 2018, and 5.7 million total impressions.

Williams says, “We use the word culture a lot. It has to do with how people feel when they’re here. The word family also comes up a lot. We put that culture and feeling at the center of everything that we do.”

“We are big believers in meeting people where they are, and appreciating who they’ve always been and who they’ll be in the future,” says McIntosh.

No one tells the story of Joy’s House better than McIntosh. Listen to this interview with her to learn more about:

  • Why and how Joy’s House was created
  • The atmosphere the organization works to maintain for guests
  • How the new caregiver support program works
  • Advice for other LeadingAge members

The organization’s education focus isn’t only directed at the outside community. Joy’s House University is a new program of continuing education for guests. Each month features a different theme, and includes classes and activities: “a chance to be person-centered and focused,” according to Williams.

Another innovation in the works is a Young Leaders Board that is now being formed and will begin work in April. It will consist of younger professionals, aged 20-34, focused on supporting the Joy’s House mission and programming. (It will not have governance responsibilities; those are handled by the existing 14-member board.) “This is more about networking and helping introduce us to a younger demographic we may not have connected to in the past,” Williams says. The first 4 members have been selected and are now working on bylaws and expectations.

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Please direct your questions to Gene Mitchell at gmitchell@leadingage.org.