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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Three local nurses team up to found new Nashua adult day program

NASHUA – For Ann Prussel, Sharon Connelly and Penny Gagne, caring for the elderly has been a lifelong passion.

All three have worked in the nursing field for years, with a combined 75 years of experience among them. ...

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NASHUA – For Ann Prussel, Sharon Connelly and Penny Gagne, caring for the elderly has been a lifelong passion.

All three have worked in the nursing field for years, with a combined 75 years of experience among them.

So when they saw community members struggling to care for family members after the adult day health programs at St. Joseph Hospital and Elliot Hospital were lost to budget cuts, they had to step in.

“This has always been my dream, but I just didn’t have the backing,” Connelly said.

So, she brought an idea to Prussel and Gagne, and together, the women opened All Generations Adult Day Program, a care and
socialization program for the elderly or any adult with a condition that leaves them in need of continuous care.

The program is in the same Amherst Street facility that once housed St. Joseph Hospital’s Adult Day Health program, and the women said they hope to one day serve the community as well as that program did for 16 years.

“We just thought, we really do need to do something to help our community,” Prussel said.

Walk into All Generations Adult Day Program and the first thing that stands out is the space: There’s tons of it.

The facility consists of one huge room, complete with a television viewing area at one end, an arts and crafts and games section in the middle, and mealtime table at the other end.

The open space, Connelly said, is ideal for keeping clients moving – practicing walking up and down the room and taking part in other exercise programs.

There are large bathrooms featuring accessible showers on site, and a quiet reading room complete with shelves of books and audio books.

The women said they’d love to be able to offer even more programming for their clients in the coming year – starting a garden in the small patio behind the building, and maybe offering baking classes in the kitchen.

“It’s not just about custodial care, it’s really about enhancing the clients’ lives,” Prussel said.

Clients can attend the day program for two, three or five days a week. Part-time attendees pay $85 a day, and full-time attendees pay $80 a day.

The program also will welcome potential clients for one-day visits to learn more about All Generations and the services offered.

The growth of the program depends on the needs of the community, Prussel added.

And from her perspective, the need is great.

All Generations Adult Day Program is an off-shoot of All Generations Home Care, a business that Prussel started in 2005 to provide in-home caregiver services to everyone from the elderly to parents of newborns and people with special needs.

Connelly works for Prussel through the home care program, and the two knew Gagne from their years in the nursing field.

While the home-care business is still going strong, Prussel said she realized that in-home care services are not financially feasible for all families. So when Connelly approached her with the idea to start a day program, she jumped on board.

Creating such a program, she said, gives caregivers the peace of mind that their loved ones are safe, while also ensuring the families are not negatively impacted financially.

The loss of the St. Joseph Adult Day Health program in 2011 was a hard one for many local families, who suddenly had fewer options for less expensive care solutions.

The day program was just one that came to an end at the hospital as medical centers around the state tried to cope with state budget cuts to hospital funding in 2011. St. Joseph had to shave about $9.6 million from its budget to make up for the cuts.

The women at All Generations are hoping their program will help some of these families impacted by the closing.

All Generations received its license in October and held its grand opening celebration in December.

The program is currently serving only a few clients, some of whom once attended the St. Joseph program. One of their nurses on staff worked for the St. Joseph program for years.

Prussel said she hopes the ties to the former program will help make the transition to a new program easier for clients. She added she’s confident that as word spreads, the program will grow.

Programs like All Generations are vital to helping the state’s growing elderly population, Prussel said, and these programs ensure the elderly remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

“Aside from the loss of a spouse or a child, the loss of independence is the most devastating,” Connelly added.

Gagne said she hopes the program also can do as much for the caregivers in the community as the people who attend the new day program. To that end, All Generations will be looking to partner with area support groups, to bring in caregiver support services some evenings.

The women also are looking to work with community members to find volunteers and to get more materials for their clients, from books and magazines to computers and audio books.

“When it comes down to it, we’re just three nurses trying to make a difference in the community,” Prussel said.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua Also follow Curtis
on Twitter (Telegraph_DC).