Adult Day Programming key to community

At United Way, we often talk about the need for a strong safety net which guarantees access for all residents to the building blocks of a good life – health, education, and economic mobility. Occasionally, then, I will use this space to do a deeper dive into pieces of that safety net which you might not be aware of, but nevertheless help our community to be a better place to live and work. Today I’d like to talk about adult day programming, and the Adult Day Program operated by Gateways Community Services.

For many years, Gateways Adult Day has been a partner of ours at United Way, receiving funding and support courtesy of our many generous community donors. Furthermore, Gateways Adult Day has been part of our Days of Caring, been on our radio show – Community Connections – and even put together a rappelling team for Over the Edge. And as a community partner, they also participate as an organization in our annual giving campaign, with employees donating back through payroll. We are proud of this long and successful partnership.

But what exactly is an Adult Day Program? The easiest way to describe it will be through a story, if you will indulge me. Imagine Doug, a 24-year-old veteran coming back from serving in Afghanistan. While deployed, Doug was injured when an IED exploded and suffered a traumatic brain injury. As a result, he now lives back at home with his parents, and his mother has become his full-time caregiver. Doug is a social person who likes to be with people and laugh. He likes to play cards and do puzzles. For medical services, he receives assistance through the VA, but he needs a social outlet, and his mother also has many obligations to keep the family going as well as needing a break occasionally from full-time caregiving. So, Doug goes to Gateways Adult Day Program 3 times per week for 6 hours. His Mom drops him off at the center, which is located at Alvirne High School in Hudson, at 8 a.m. and picks him back up after lunch at 2 p.m. While he’s at Adult Day, Doug gets breakfast and lunch, engages in social, mental, and physical activities, and gets to laugh with his friends. While Doug is at Adult Day, his Mother goes shopping, cooks, runs errands around town, and occasionally gets to meet with some of her friends. As a result, she is better prepared emotionally for the hard work of caregiving, and Doug is healthier and happier.

The story of Doug is hardly unique. Millions of people around the country live at home with their families (or friends), who are their full-time caregivers. Some are young, like Doug with his Traumatic Brain Injury, others might be older and experiencing Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, or a developmental disability. All these people have the basic need for social interaction, physical exercise, and mental stimulation. And most caregivers are simply overburdened with the efforts that go along with this very taxing work. I know from personal experience how hard it was for my Mother to take care of my Father when he developed ALS. She had her own needs related to cancer, and the burden of caregiving was crushing for her. So the role of an Adult Day Program is to help both the affected person as well as to support the whole family by giving respite so that they can continue with their lives, whether they get away for a few hours, or to go back to work to support the family.

When I spoke recently with the Director of Gateways’ Program, Laurie Branchaud, she shared with me that the program at Alvirne, as remarkable as it is, is currently looking for additional clients. It seems that many people might come to Adult Day and think it’s not for them and leave right away. I’m 100% certain my Father would have done that. He would have said, “I’m not like them, I don’t need any help.” In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth, but as humans we are often stubborn and resist help, instead putting an undue burden on those closest to us. However, after staying a few times, many Adult Day clients decide that it is in fact a great place for them. They make friends, accomplish new tasks, and get lots of stimulation that might be missing in their lives.

Adult Day clients run the gamut in ages, from as young as 18 and up. The oldest client that Gateways has had so far was 94 years old. What they have in common is that they live either at home or in a residential setting, and that they have some sort of medical necessity which requires caregiving. Some pay for the service privately. But others pay through their long-term care insurance, are covered by CFI Medicaid, or can receive funding from Title IIIB or Title XX, if eligible. For those in need of additional support, the United Way grant to Adult Day helps to make the program accessible to all.

Another unique aspect of Gateways’ Adult Day Program is its relationship with Alvirne High School. Not only is it located on the school campus, but the Health Occupations students at the school help run the program. Of course, there is full time, medically qualified staff on-site, but the students help, too. As Juniors, the students focus mostly on social interaction skills with the clients, and as Seniors, they help with some of the more specific medical needs like taking vital signs and conducting chart reviews. In this way, clients benefit by interacting with the young people, and the students gain real life, hands on experience that they can take with them into their future careers. How can you not see the tremendous win-win benefits in this approach?

Gateways Adult Day is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and, as I stated earlier, has openings for new clients. I’ve been there several times and have witnessed firsthand the loving and thoughtful way that staff and students interact with clients, and I know from speaking with clients and their families how beneficial the program is for them. If you are interested in learning more about the program, I would encourage you to check them out online at https://www.gatewayscs.org/gateways-adult-day-center/ and perhaps schedule to go over for a tour. If you do, tell them Mike sent you! This program is a wonderful example of one of our tremendous community partnerships, which makes us so proud to say that GREAT THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WE LIVE UNITED.

Mike Apfelberg is president of United Way of Greater Nashua.