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WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) — As a military officer and medic in the Laotian military, Chong Tou Xiong was a courageous war veteran. When Xiong arrived in Wausau in 1993 as an immigrant, he channeled that energy and his organizational skills into advocacy for the Hmong community.
Although Xiong died in 2008, his legacy continues in what might seem a surprising way: adult day care. On Sept. 1, Chong Tou's Elderly Center, a new adult day care center aimed specifically at meeting the needs of Southeast Asian seniors, opened its doors. The facility, which already was accepting enrollment applications before the opening, is the brainchild of three of his daughters, who also own and manage the business, Wausau Daily Herald Media (http://wdhne.ws/1JsH2q2 ) reported.
"Our father is our inspiration," said Lee Lo, 35, who brings to the center nursing and business experience. Her siblings are Kaomanee Xiong, 28, who has an education background, and Linda Xiong-Lee, 26, also a nurse.
"He strongly believed in our community and he had hoped for a safe place for elders where they could socialize, build independence and feel important," Xiong-Lee said.
Many elderly Hmong are cared for by family but lack social interaction with their peers and stimulating activities, said Xiong-Lee. Because many aren't proficient in English, they have few outlets to avoid feeling isolated.
"This is a place where our elders can engage and enjoy each other," Xiong-Lee said of the new center.
During the Vietnam War, many of the Hmong in Laos assisted and fought with the U.S. military. Thousands of Hmong fled Laos as the war came to a close with many spending years in refugee camps in Thailand. A camp in Thailand is where Xiong met his bride and where the three sisters were born, said Lo.
"They were in refugee camps for about 20 years," Lo said.
Their father didn't want to immigrate to the United States because he wanted to remain in Thailand to ensure that his countrymen would successfully get out of the camps, said Xiong-Lee.
"He resisted, and finally in 1993 (we immigrated and) came to Wausau," she said.
They were followed by thousands of other refugees and as Wausau's Southeast Asian population has grown, so has its numbers of elderly adults.
"We specialize in creating a welcoming, caring center for elderly Hmong adults," said Kaomanee Xiong. "We want to make our elders feel comfortable with things like familiar food and activities."
The same focus on cultural comforts is planned for elderly adults of any ethnicity, she said.
"Our goal is to provide a place where everyone is comfortable," Kaomanee Xiong said.
The women spent more than a year planning the center and settled on a Grand Avenue location because it is on the city's bus route and is easily visible from the street with ample parking. Each of the sisters will bring her professional talent to bear when it opens.
"Lee (Lo) has two successful businesses and she's also a home health nurse," said Xiong-Lee. "Kaomanee (Xiong) has the education experience which is helping us to develop good education programs for elders, and I also have a nursing background in geriatrics."
Central to the center's mission will be educating clients about health awareness so that they can live satisfying, long lives, she said.
The center is divided into rooms with a variety of amenities such as nursing services for blood pressure and blood sugar checks, a bed for napping, arts and crafts, exercise and a dining facility. The centerpiece of the facility is a large room suitable for about 50 people where the participants can play pool or socialize. It includes a stage for presentations.
"In our own little way, we're continuing what our dad started," said Xiong-Lee. "I think if he was here, he would be happy and proud of this."
Information from: Wausau Daily Herald Media, http://www.wausaudailyherald.com
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