Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

New life in the midst of struggle

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

“All it takes is one bloom of hope to make a spiritual garden.” — Terri Guillemet

 

On average, it’s said to take at least two to three years before a business becomes profitable.

If that’s the case, Pulaski Adult Day Service & Fall Prevention Center (PADS) — a local nonprofit that opened in November 2016 — was pretty much on schedule when it stopped “bleeding money” and started breaking even with the arrival of 2019.

By that point the client base was growing and clients were showing improvement in their cognitive/functional abilities and quality of life. One would have thought it was all smooth sailing from there.

Then life as we knew it changed. New terminology entered our vocabulary in late 2019 — novel coronavirus, which came to be known as COVID-19.

What at first appeared to be a problem only in eastern nations soon grew into a worldwide epidemic. In March 2020 PADS was forced to close its doors to wait out the pandemic.

“I fought closing as long as I could,” said Executive Director Linda Davis. “I felt (clients) would be better off here” than in a more populated setting.

She explained that clients and staff were already used to following health and sanitation measures required for licensing, even before the pandemic arose. Introducing masks is all that would have been required to keep them safe.

Eventually, Davis had to join the ranks of other adult day services nationwide and shut down. She never dreamed the centers would be closed a year. The hit on finances has some services making the difficult decision to close for good.

Davis and board members are not willing to throw in the towel yet, but they say it’s now “make or break it” for PADS.

Debbie Bauer, a newly appointed PADS board member and daughter of one of its former clients, said the only options she thought she had when her father developed dementia were quitting her job or moving him into a long-term care facility. Neither was a viable option in her mind.

Gerald Schluter first moved in with Bauer and her family in 2011 following the death of her mother. “Dad easily smiled, played Scrabble, watched the grandkids, and went to see them act in shows,” she said.

But “things dramatically changed” as his cognitive impairment progressed into dementia. Unable to be left alone, alternatives had to be found for managing his care. That’s when Bauer discovered PADS.

Schluter attended the center for three years, enabling him to continue living with family.

“While we were at work and school, we had the peace of mind knowing dad was safe and enjoying himself at Pulaski Adult Day Service. He started out going a few days a week, then he went five days a week,” she said.

Schluter was at the center 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday. He started to refer to it as “my program,” according to Bauer.

“Dad participated in meaningful activities and spent time outside. It reminded me of summer camp with music, games, dance, exercise, gardening and crafts. He even held baby sheep and a pygmy goat! The program’s parakeets, Butter and Blue, also provided entertainment.

“My dad’s quality of life was greatly enriched. The ladies at the center even said dad was a pretty good dancer …,” Bauer added.

Certified Music Therapist Cindie Wolfe noticed marked improvement in Schluter’s ability to communicate after coming to the center. She recalled how he was able to, in his own way, communicate to her that he recognized the difficulty involved in providing musical therapy to a group of people with different tastes in music and musical instruments.

Schluter’s enjoyment of the program is visible in the smile on his face in center photos.

Despite the staff’s best efforts, the progression of his dementia eventually made it unsafe for Schluter to be at home. Just as COVID-19 was entering the picture, Bauer made the difficult decision to move him into a memory care facility. He stopped attending PADS Nov. 27, 2019.

“When we look back, his dementia was getting worse, however, he rapidly declined when he no longer went to Pulaski Adult Day Service and no longer lived in our home,” she said. “It was so sad to see how much he changed …”

She says he fell frequently and didn’t get the care he needed in the facility due to understaffing, so he was moved into a private care home setting a month later.

Two months after leaving PADS, Schluter passed away.

“Dad’s life was so much better, as was ours, when he lived with us at home and went to Pulaski Adult Day Service. We couldn’t have kept dad home for as long as we did without this program,” said Bauer, now a passionate supporter of adult day services.

She has written letters to Pulaski County Board of Supervisors members asking them to forgive what is remaining on a Virginia Small Business Financing Authority loan used to furnish and equip the center to improve the chances of survival.

Davis is hoping the board will provide a community support grant to go along with six months of deferred loan payments recently granted to help get the center back on its feet. She also is reaching out to other organizations for help.

According to Davis, PADS partnered with the county to obtain a Community Development Block Grant to construct the center at 211 Fifth St. in Dublin. The nonprofit contributed $75,000 toward construction costs and obtained a donation from an area business for the exterior siding.

PADs raised its own operational funds, then partnered with Pulaski County Economic Development Authority on the $175,000 Small Business Financing Authority loan; $50,000 of which went to Pulaski County to cover its expenses.

Despite having seven months with no cash flow, Davis says in a letter to local community organizations that PADS had paid the loan down to $109,387 by October 2020. The $1,745 monthly loan payment includes $100 rent on the building, which the county owns.

“I tell you this history … to evidence the faithfulness with which we have worked to fulfill our obligations,” Davis says in the letter. “We have continued to pay our loan payments, insurance, utilities and other bills.”

If not for the loan deferment, “we would be forced to close permanently,” she adds.

In her letter to the board of supervisors, Bauer says, “Please help save Pulaski Adult Day Service & Fall Prevention Center in Dublin. We want more families to be helped and use the services offered. Their services made all the difference in our family’s life.

“This wonderful local resource is in danger of closing forever after being closed for a year due to COVID-19,” Bauer continues. She points out the nonprofit is trying to reopen Monday, but it needs help if it’s going to be able to survive long-term.

According to Davis, many of its previous clients had to be placed in long-term care facilities due to the length of the closure. As of a week ago only four of the nearly one-dozen clients are confirmed to be returning for Monday’s official reopening.

Essentially, PADS is starting over.

The center is licensed to serve 30 clients, but Davis said 20 would be a good number to keep it financially comfortable and able to provide the best quality care. Not all participants attend on a daily basis.

In addition to financial assistance and clients, Bauer says the center needs other assistance. For example, redesigning the website, computer/technology support, handy work, landscaping and “getting the word out” about the service.

Bauer, Davis and other board members are confident other families would use PADS if they were aware of the service. They point out it is “very affordable” compared to the options.

The daily fee to attend the center is $70. That would be around $1,600 to attend every weekday per month, Davis said. The fee includes meals, snacks and activities.

According to Davis, the monthly cost of home health care and assisted living during 2020 was around $4,300 to $4,500. Nursing home care ranged from about $7,800 a month for a semi-private room to about $8,800 for a private room.

Medicare and private insurance doesn’t cover adult day services, but Medicaid and veteran benefits do. To make the service available to people who may not be able to pay the out-of-pocket cost, Davis is hoping to develop a scholarship program.

Under the program, an individual, family, organization, business or other entity could pay the cost of sending a particular person or anyone in need to the center daily or for a specific number of days. It would help the center get back on its feet and help those who could benefit from the program stay home as long as possible.

At this point, any assistance is a positive step forward.

Davis sees a sign of hope for PADS’ future in the new life that emerged in the quietness of the center during its closure. As she went to feed parakeets Blue and Butter one day, there was a tiny egg in a coconut shell. The shell had been inside their cage for years, but the birds found a new use for it in the silence.

When previous clients return to the center Monday, they will find a new friend to enrich their days.

That tiny egg hatched, and now there are three birds in the cage: Blue, Butter and a growing green baby that will need to adjust to sounds of voices and activities it hasn’t heard before.

So what’s the baby’s name?

Stay tuned. That will be decided in a “Name the Baby” contest for the clients.

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login