Fall Startup Planned For Adult Supportive Day Program

by Tim Wood
The Chatham Center for Active Living will host an adult supportive day program, likely to begin between September and December. TIM WOOD PHOTO The Chatham Center for Active Living will host an adult supportive day program, likely to begin between September and December. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – With startup and first-year costs covered, council on aging officials have begun planning an adult supportive day program to be held at the center for active living on Stepping Stone Road.

Director of Community Services Leah LaCross said she’s anticipating the program will begin sometime between September and December. Should there be difficulty recruiting staff, that date could be pushed further out, she added.

Under the $273,682 grant from the Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs through the Supportive and Social Day Program Expansion Grant Program, the town has until March 2025 to start the program. The non-medical program is designed to provide a supportive and safe environment for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to provide a respite for caregivers.

The grant also requires that the program have a sponsor that already runs a similar program, and the Dennis Council On Aging has agreed to do that, LaCross said. “They will be helping out putting together job descriptions, care plans” and other details, she told the select board May 14.

Town officials initially planned to ask for the money at last week’s annual town meeting, but with the approval of the grant, the article seeking the funds was not moved.

Currently, about 10 Chatham residents attend a supportive day program at the Orleans Council on Aging, which costs about $990 a month. Attendees of the Chatham program will pay $60 per day, which will help cover the cost of meals and other program elements, according to town officials. Some residents may qualify for financial assistance through Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands.

It’s likely that some of the Chatham residents who currently attend the Orleans program will stay there, LaCross said. Transition can be very difficult for people suffering from dementia, she added. She plans to meet with Orleans COA Director Judi Wilson to discuss a transition plan for those who wish to move to the Chatham program.

“We want to be as sensitive as possible, and that’s why Judi and I are going to put those plans into place together,” LaCross said. “We want to work together to make it a seamless transition.”

Even if the folks now attending the Orleans program opt to stay there, LaCross said she is confident that there is enough demand to justify the program, which will serve up to 15 residents. The program will be advertised to recruit clients, she added.

The grant will cover program startup costs such as furnishings that meet state Elder Affairs Office criteria, technology such as door alarms and security cameras and supplies. Staff will include a full-time program manager, two part-time assistants and a part-time bus driver. In the future, the town will be responsible for budgeting for staff salaries and supplies.

The program will be held two days a week in the main dining room at the center for active living. That may require shifting other programs to different rooms at the facility or at the community center, LaCross said.

“I anticipate there will be some disruption,” she said. “There will be some growing pains. We are in a very tight space.”

Officials are currently considering whether the center for active living building should be renovated to make the space more usable, and select board member Dean Nicastro wondered if that would negatively impact the program. LaCross said space in the building could be walled off from where work is occurring, and if the program has to move elsewhere, an effort would be made to replicate the facilities as closely as possible.

Resident Elaine Gibbs said it was premature to launch the program before a decision is made about the building. “I can’t believe it would be anything less than traumatic for [program clients] to be in an environment where construction and banging and all kinds of things are going on in the next room,” she said.

But Pat Burke, chair of the COA board, said the town has been putting off a decision on the building for years, and if the supportive day program is held up for that “nothing’s going to happen.” Many people in the COA’s Alzheimer’s support group have told her they are looking forward to the program, she added.

Select board members said they were glad that the Dennis agency will be providing assistance in getting the program up and running. The fact that the state awarded the town the grant “is an expression of confidence and expertise that we would be, frankly, crazy not to accept,” said board member Michael Schell.

The state will also be monitoring the program, added board member Shareen Davis. “The state just doesn’t dump it on the town and say go ahead and run with it,” she said.

The board voted unanimously to accept the grant.