Conway, NH (By Terri Leavitt, Conway Daily Sun) -- The MWV Adult Day Center will fill a needed gap in health-care services in the Mount Washington Valley when it opens in early August, those who have helped bring it to fruition said last week.
The state-of-the-art, 14,000-square-foot facility located off Route 113 in Center Conway will provide activities and services for those with memory loss and other cognitive impairments.
A joint program with the Betty C. Ketchum Foundation, the center will be operated by Memorial Hospital under the leadership of Sue Ruka, director of Population Health at the hospital, and Arthur Mathisen, hospital president.
Norman Cloutier of the Ketchum Foundation joined Ruka, Mathisen, Kathy Bennett, former marketing director at the hospital, and Sun staff members on a July 9 tour of the facility as construction crews finished up a myriad of details at the property.
Over the past year, builders have brought to life the vision of the architect and medical professionals who designed the facility.
Bennett said Ruka has been a leader on the project. “And with Norman’s vision for the center and with the resources of Memorial Hospital and the work we did around the feasibility study in the business development for it, it’s been a five-year process,” she said.
Ruka has a Ph.D. in geriatrics from Boston College and has been working with elderly clients with memory loss for more than 20 years.
Bennett said that studies prior to construction indicated there are about 1,200 people in the Mount Washington Valley would could benefit from the center’s services.
“The diagnosis of dementia is really on the increase,” Ruka said, estimating that someone in the United States develops it every 34 seconds.
Cloutier, who has overseen building the facility for the past year on behalf of the foundation, said the group spent a year researching adult day centers around the country.
“It really does come down to thousands of small details. Virtually all of them are borrowed,” Cloutier said. “And we are shameless in our willingness to borrow what other people have done.”
Out of that research came the design for the Great Room, dining/activity area.
“When we researched adult day centers around the country we found most would use one central area that they would convert to whatever the activity was,” Cloutier said.
“Here we’ve been able to take advantage of a dedicated dining area,” he said. “From the first, Sue said we don’t want it to have an institutional feel, so we’ve got it set up with the individual dining areas with just a little bit of privacy that folks, if they want to, can take their time and linger,” Cloutier said.
Ruka pointed out the Cafe area where guests can get a cup of coffee and sit and chat. Family and friends are encouraged to visit with guests there and elsewhere at the center.
The Great Room also will contain an area with recliners and a large screen where guests can watch movies. Around a divider, is the arts and crafts area.
Elsewhere is a locker room for people to store their belongings, either for the day or on a regular basis, and an exercise room that currently includes recumbent exercise bikes and a pinball machine — which in addition to just being fun, helps provide standing exercises. Other equipment will be added later.
The center also includes quiet areas, such as a south-facing solarium with plants and water features, a reading room and a porch. There is a spa, complete with a relaxing bath, and medical offices for health-care professionals.
The center also has extensive outdoor areas, with a pavilion, pathways, gardens, meditative art installations and benches on the grounds, where day guests can enjoy the outdoors.
Certain design elements are aimed at stimulating reminiscing, such as the lift chairs from the defunct local Mittersill Ski Area set up as benches around a set of signs pointing to local ski areas.
“Hopefully. folks can have reminiscences about when they used to get out and about,” said Cloutier.
Art also has been shown to be helpful in promoting memory, and in addition to art activities and books of pictures in the reading room, the facility will be decorated by paintings donated by local artists.
Also providing a calming atmosphere is the greenery and water features in the solarium.
The entire facility is designed to be safe and secure for people who have memory issues and may become confused. A key feature, Ruka and Cloutier said, is the open spaces and windows that allow staff to check on their guests.
“The staff are able to see, so the guests don’t have to feel like somebody is looking at them every moment,” Ruka said. “The side rooms have windows in them so staff in the activity office can see multiple rooms at once and quickly notice and respond to any problem.”
The state-of-the-art infrastructure includes a solar array to generate electricity for the building and two electric vehicles that will be used to transport guests to and from the center.
“It’s not just the environmental green factor that initiated a lot of these things. Operating an adult day center is not very profitable,” Cloutier said. “If you can reduce the operating cost of the buildings, that frees up funds to provide support through either more staff or more activities for lowering the rates that you have to charge.”
Variable-spectrum LED lighting mimics natural daylight, shifting as natural light does throughout the day.
“We want to provide them with as much natural sunlight as possible during the day and get that circadian rhythm back on track,” said Ruka.
This helps address problems with insomnia and seasonal affective disorder.
The MWV Adult Day Center will provide services during the day, Monday-Friday.
The building and grounds will be available for support services and for use by other non-profits during weekends and evenings.
The Mount Washington Adult Day Center is set up to provide not only caregiver respite but therapeutic and recreational activities; personalized therapeutic programs; lunch; standardized screenings for depression, cognitive impairment and speech and ambulation safety; assistance with grooming, bathing, toileting and eating; plus social services and caregiver support and education.
Bennett said an Aug. 5 soft opening date had been discussed, but that is now pending final licensure.
A grand opening for dignitaries and stakeholders is scheduled for Sept 19.
For more information about the Adult Day Center, go to mwvadultdaycenter.org or contact Sue Ruka at (603) 356-4980.