During the early morning hours, there is a bustle of activity right outside what was once the old police station at 5 Union Street as elderly individuals are being dropped off for a full day of activities and relaxation. Inside the welcoming space, Audrey Coughlin is setting up her art enrichment room with clay pots that the participants will be transforming into lighthouses one step at a time.
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The salon will soon be buzzing with cut and blow dries, and manicures right after they move the little pots of plants that have been placed on the nail table soaking up the sun. The smell of coffee emanates through the cozy kitchen as people settle in for breakfast and start to chat about the day. And med techs, CNAs and nursing staff float about to make sure everyone has been attended to and is going to have a good day here at PACE RI, Adult Day Center of Westerly.
PACE stands for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly and offers community-based healthcare and support services to meet the needs of participants through a plan specific to the individual. As part of a national model PACE Organization of Rhode Island was brought to the Ocean State in 2005, as a non-profit health plan and provider of care for Medicare and Medicaid adults ages 55 and older who have chronic health needs and want to remain living at home.
Three health centers located in Providence, Woonsocket and Westerly cover the entire state, also serving some Connecticut residents as well. “The care here is all-inclusive and we incorporate all the care individuals need,” says Jennifer Young, Westerly Day Center Director. “The level of excellence that is provided by the staff is exactly the same whether someone is here for a traditional adult day or has a behavioral concern or needs physical help.”
Most days the adult day center has 20 to 40 individuals that attend, depending upon weather and caregiver support, with approximately 80% of their participants who have some form of dementia and with all forms of mobility. A convenient bonus that the center offers is the coordination of transportation to their facility as well as to medical appointments. Each PACE organization is unique and meets the needs of their participants with things that are important to them.
“Pace encourages all to stay true to each own community, and for our participants the Pledge of Alliance is important, so we do that,” says Jennifer. “And because Westerly has an Italian Catholic population some of the women say the Rosary.”
The staff has also found that for the residents it’s important for them to feel a connection and fulfillment and they want to give back to the community. Audrey, who has been there for six years guides the participants in art projects such as making cards they distribute to the local nursing homes, they also bake goodies for the animal shelter, and they love going to visit the firefighters next to the PACE building at the fire department. “Everyone is hands-on,” says Audrey. “It gives them a sense of purpose for someone else and lifts them up.”
The participant’s artwork colors the halls and rooms of the building. On one of the walls is a photo of two women who attend the adult day center standing in front of the building that features the Westerly Telephone Co mural, they had enjoyed a Bricks and Murals tour with the group and realized afterwards they had much in common both having worked at the Westerly Telephone Co at different times in their lives.
Each morning they gather for a light breakfast and then come together for a full hot lunch, even enjoying baking cookies. There is a man cave with a handful of comfy recliners where much chatting goes on, naps, guided meditation, or they can relax while watching a movie or reading.
Throughout the day the med techs and a registered nurse on staff administer meds as needed and tend to whatever type of direct care is needed. There is a separate rehab space for anyone that needs physical or occupational therapy and the participants can also use the room to life weights, or the workout equipment depending upon their physical activity level. A participant’s doctor will come to visit them at the adult center making it very convenient for not only the participants but the caregivers as well.
There is even a social worker that can assist with social services such as SNAP benefits and other coordinated services as needed. In the library families have meetings and there is a once a month support group for anyone who needs guidance.
Lori Barker, a Medical Technician, just celebrated 25 years with PACE. “I love it, this is my happy place most days,” says Lori. “I try to make someone’s life a little better every day while they are here. Not only their lives but their family.”
This year, in February, the Adult Day Center of Westerly and PACE Organization of Rhode Island were chosen as the recipients of the annual Black and White Ball at the Ocean House, in Watch Hill. Each year, the ball recognizes a different local nonprofit, which chooses a theme highlighting its unique mission and values. This year’s theme was “The Golden Age of Hollywood,” celebrating a time that many participants admire and incorporating the notion that the later years in life are the “golden years.”
PACE Adult Day Center has seen many success stories over the years such as a daughter who sent a thank you email to Jennifer a few weeks after her mom started to come there for the day. Something had been missing from her mom’s life before arriving there and now her mom is engaged in life and doing things she enjoys such as artwork and reading.