WEST SPRINGFIELD – Despite being born with Down syndrome and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in his later life, Paul is a fierce competitor and a smooth dancer.
Just ask him, he’ll tell you, with a sly grin. Paul worked a manufacturing job for nearly 30 years until retiring a few years ago. He lived with his mother, who was independent well into her 90s, until she fell ill l with Alzheimer’s four years ago. Both she and Paul moved in with Paul’s sister, Celene, who had raised four children of her own.
“I was not putting either of them in a home. That was not happening,” Celene said recently of her only sibling and her mother, now 96.
But each needs constant care and supervision. Though high-functioning and gregarious, Paul once became lost on his sister’s large property. Their mother needs assistance with most everything. Her speech has become limited, Celene said.
“She’ll tell me she loves me. I’m beautiful. She kisses me. But that’s about it,” Celene said.
While she insisted on assuming full-time care in her home for both, she concedes the responsibility keeps her and her husband generally anchored to their home.
Celene has found a welcome respite with CHD’s Hawthorn Elder Care Adult Day Health program in West Springfield – where Paul attends five days a week, with enthusiasm.
“I like it here. I play volleyball. And I’m going to a sweetheart dance … Valentine’s Day is coming up,” Paul reports, after pausing to play a round of ping pong in the midst of a Bingo game.
The West Springfield site is one of three Adult Day Health Centers run by CHD. Other sites are in downtown Springfield and Chicopee. Each center is bustling with activity each day. Each has nurses and trained staff on-site to take participants’ vital signs, dispense medication, cater to specialized diet plans and oversee all activities.
Many clients go to off-site trips including parks, museums, crafting adventures and even occasional trips to local casinos. They provide free, accessible transportation to and from surrounding communities.
Celene said her brother, 61, lives a far fuller life as a result of Hawthorn Elder Care and its staff.
“They are the best, the absolute best. I can’t say enough about them,” she said. “It’s the best organization in the world.”
Audrey Monroe, CHD’s Director of Elder Services, who also daily supervises the West Springfield site, said Paul, his family and others like him are the lifeblood of the program, which operates as a partnership with participants and their loves ones.
“Paul has always been a very social person at the program. His smile will light up a room. He really enjoys volleyball, and loves anything with music. He enjoys dancing with anyone,” Monroe said.
“He benefits from the structure of the program to remain safe during the day. We also give respite to his sister who takes care of him, and they have a great relationship together. Paul is such a wonderful part of our program and brings a lot of laughter and fun to all of us during the day,” she added.