Respite for the Elderly and Their Caregivers

September 9, 2013

Meet Good Neighbor Finalist Susanne Crenshaw, who helps provide seniors and their families with a much-needed alternative to nursing homes.

A few years ago, Jill Zizzi felt completely overwhelmed. She was raising two boys on her own, and her elderly father had just moved into her small living room. He needed around-the-clock physical care and spent his days begging his frazzled daughter to entertain him. “It was liking take care of 13 toddlers all at once,” Zizzi says.

She finally decided she needed to look into buying a new home with a ground-floor bedroom. Fortunately, the real estate professional she was referred to was Susanne Crenshaw. “She saw how desperate I was,” Zizzi says. “Beyond just selling me a new house, she took the full-force initiative to help me.”

Crenshaw told Zizzi about a wonderful senior daycare facility nearby called Daily Living Centers Inc. She helped warm Zizzi’s reluctant father to the idea, and she made all the phone calls necessary to obtain a spot for him there. Crenshaw also helped Zizzi navigate the U.S. military benefits departments for the WWII veteran. Crenshaw then found Zizzi a new home in a neighborhood where a limousine would pick up her father every day for his DLC visits and then return him, happy and exhausted, in the evening. “Without a shadow of a doubt,” Zizzi says, “I couldn’t have survived this emotional crisis without Susanne and the Daily Living Centers.”

For more than 19 years, Crenshaw has been helping people in the state of Oklahoma get established with DLC. But her work isn’t limited to relieving individual and family stress. As a member of the DLC board, including a four-year stint as board president, she has exhaustively raised funds and expanded the nonprofit organization, making it the largest adult day care program in Oklahoma. “I have spent the last 19 years truly dedicated to the Daily Living Centers,” Crenshaw says. “We’ve expanded our services. We [now] have 10 limos and four vans. We not only provide transportation to DLC, but we’ll also take participants to the grocery store and to doctor appointments.”

Nineteen years ago, Crenshaw was a long-time manager at Lucent Technologies. During a United Way fundraising campaign, she happened to meet Bill Weaver, the CEO and president of DLC. Thinking of her own elderly parents, the idea of daytime care for the elderly sounded wonderfully refreshing to Crenshaw, and she asked how she could help. Weaver asked Crenshaw to join the board. “She’s been very important to this organization,” Weaver says. “I call her our Energizer Bunny—you ask her to do something, and it’s done so quick you might not be ready for it.”

Weaver credits Crenshaw with growing the organization. When she started volunteering, DLC provided services for 25 people a day, and was being run out of a church basement with a budget of $300,000. Today there are around 200 people who attend one of the four facilities in the Oklahoma City area daily, and DLC’s budget has grown to $2 million. Crenshaw found land for a fifth facility, for which building is currently underway. She also helped raise enough money to provide the limousines as transportation for the participants—a special perk they often say is a highlight of their day. “We could not have done any of this without her help,” Weaver says.

Crenshaw is actively involved in fundraisers and marketing for the organization, and she seeks grants from family foundations. “I never knew there were so many grants out there until Susanne came along,” Weaver says. She recruits new board members and, since becoming a REALTOR® five years ago, she talks to every clientabout how their elderly family members might benefit from outings to DLC. She works to obtain financial aid for participants and helps family members make sense of the paperwork. “Most of our participants are on ‘scholarships’ — that’s what we like to call them,” she says.

Most importantly, Crenshaw is spreading the word as a regular United Way speaker that elderly daycare is a phenomenal way to help families, especially those who cannot afford nursing homes. “My goal when I first got on the board was that we need to have one of these in every major town in Oklahoma,” she says. “There is always money [in government budgets] for kids’ programs, but money for seniors is a difficult thing.”

It costs approximately $60 (the maximum fee on a sliding scale) for a senior to spend a day at DLC (compared with $222 for a semiprivate room in a nursing home), where he or she can partake in healthy meals, take a bath with DLC assistance, have laundry done by staff, and enjoy activities such as crafts, games, and contestswith other participants before returning to his or her familiar home. According to Weaver (who has testified before a national committee in Washington D.C. on the value of adult day care), if we could delay nursing home placement for every individual by four months, the government could save over $3 billion per year.

But for individual families, the benefits of this program are priceless. Crenshaw is dedicated to trying to make sure the people in Oklahoma — and beyond — know that there is dignified help for their elderly family members.

“The bottom line is, it’s a center for participants but even more for the caregivers,” Crenshaw says. “Their lives changed when the participant — husband or wife or parent — got into the DLC.”

“It’s been a real lifesaver for me,” agrees Oklahoma City resident David Heck, whose severely brain-damaged wife has been attending DLC for four years. “It allows me to get out and go shopping. It’s just been a godsend.”

—By Kristin Kloberdanz

Contact Susanne Crenshaw at Find more information about Daily Living Centers.