`Gardens' for grownups; Day program comes to Pakachoag.
AUBURN - Moving an adult day program from Millbury to more spacious quarters in Auburn has garnered praise from participants and program managers, but disappointment from a few Millbury residents.
Pakachoag Gardens adult day health program was housed on Colonial Drive in Millbury for more than two decades and was called the Millbury Adult Day Health Center before the program was taken over by the Auburn VNA Health Network, then known as the Auburn District Nursing Association, in 2000. The center was rebranded earlier this year and then moved to space in the Pakachoag Church off Pakachoag Street in Auburn last month.
Judith A. O'Connor, executive director of the Millbury Council on Aging, told selectmen last week that "it was always our intention to keep the day care open in Millbury with a sponsor."
Kimberly M. Harmon, president and chief executive officer of the Auburn VNA, said the space in Millbury did not meet state requirements for an adult day program and required "grandfathering" for continued approval.
"The space was too small to accommodate the program, which did not close. It moved. Every participant from Millbury came with us. We needed to make this move for our clients. We have approximately double the space we had in Millbury; we have no more parking problems; we were able to increase our capacity from 22 to 30 participants. We are in a better place."
She pointed out that the town is building playing fields in a new park directly behind the church, so that walkways will be available to program participants in the near future.
Pakachoag Church officially welcomed Pakachoag Gardens on Aug. 24, when the minister, the Rev. Dennis Knight, announced that the Auburn VNA had paid to renovate the church's Fellowship Hall to meet the needs of the day health program.
Brett L. Campbell, director of public relations for the Auburn VNA, said an existing bathroom had been renovated and a handicapped-accessible shower was installed, along with new furniture to bring the space and furnishings up to code.
Scott D. MacLean, director of operations for Pakachoag Gardens, said, "We're excited to be here. This is a medical program, with a registered nurse on-site, a certified activities director and two aides. All medications are delivered, medical evaluations are done and stimulating activities are offered."
He said he was excited to share the building with the Pakachoag Music School of Greater Worcester, and hoped there would be "shared intergenerational music."
He said Pakachoag Gardens is a physician-ordered or private-pay program that provides comprehensive adult day health services, including socialization, companionship, exercise, nutrition, emotional support, nursing, personal care and more. Clients are provided transportation as needed.
Ms. Campbell said physical therapy, speech therapy, social work or occupational therapy can be ordered.
"We've had participants age 50 to 101 with a wide range of diagnoses."
Betty M. Grudzinskas, 89, of Millbury, has been in the program for nine years. She said she is very happy at the new site. "I like it here."
Calvin J. Perry, 58, a resident of the congregate housing in Millbury, said he was pleased with the new Auburn site. "I like the staff here. Everyone is very nice."
Jennie DiCicco, 93, of Worcester, said, "This is a great place. We have a nice group."
"I love it," said Shirley Menard, 76, of Worcester. "I get to come every day and see all my friends and the nice people who work here. It's great!"
Mr. MacLean said, "There is great camaraderie among our participants. They truly care for each other, as we truly care about them."
Participants compete in games such as Pokeno, which have an extra purpose, Mr. MacLean said, "A game is a fun social activity which offers auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation."
He said a Wii video game console and a 50-inch plasma television, provided by Percy's at a very low price, offer a different kind of stimulation.
"Our only vice is that some participants have to watch `The Price is Right' every day. We also put on some educational shows."
Lisa M. Bennes, who has been Millbury's congregate housing coordinator for more than 20 years, said she believes in the value of the program, but wishes it had not moved out of Millbury.
"It was a wonderful asset to have the adult day program in the same building as our congregate housing. We had volunteers who were able to walk to the center. We did everything we could to keep the program in Millbury. I think this will change the number of frail elderly and disabled I can take out of rest homes."
She said she would "continue to make sure our residents are ready to go to Auburn each day."
She has contacted multiple other agencies, but so far has had little interest in leasing the 2,200-square-foot space that housed the adult day program. "It is available. Call the Millbury Housing Authority for information."
Adult Day Health Care Center was founded by the Millbury District Nurses in 1989, but then the nurses merged with Fallon and St. Vincent Health Center in Worcester and were renamed Certified Nursing Services Inc. CNSI was bought by OrNda Health Corp. and then by California-based Tenet Health Care before being closed.
In April 2000, the town was informed that the adult day program would also be closing.
The Millbury Board of Health contracted with the Auburn District Nursing Association to offer free clinics and take over the adult day health care center.
Ms. Campbell said that when the Auburn organization took over the Millbury program at that town's request, the Auburn nurses "assumed the debt" of the adult day program and provided a service to Millbury, which it continues to provide in a better space in Auburn.
She said all participants, clients and town management were informed of the move to Auburn months in advance through letters, postcards, emails, telephone calls and meetings.
Ms. Harmon said, "We could not survive in that space in Millbury. In Auburn, we increased capacity and expanded the program. Everybody wins."
She invited everyone to stop by during the Pakachoag Gardens open house from 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 26. Refreshments will be served.
CUTLINE: The new day program in Auburn, Pakachoag Gardens, has opened at the Pakachoag Church.
PHOTOG: MATT WRIGHT