Council on Aging marks opening of new Ponte Vedra adult day care program


County and state officials joined with the St. Johns County Council on Aging and members of the community last week to celebrate the opening of the Ponte Vedra Memory Care Center’s new state-licensed adult day care program.

Held April 21 at the Memory Care Center – located adjacent to the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – the event included refreshments, tours of the facility and a presentation on dementia by Robert Trenholm of the AgeWell Center for Senior Health. Also on hand was state Secretary for Elder Affairs Sam Verghese, County Commissioner Jay Morris and Council on Aging staff and board members who helped raise the funding needed to create the center.

“This is called ‘inspiration plus hard work equals magic,’” said former Council on Aging Executive Director Cathy Brown, who worked with Morris, COA board members and the community to make the center a reality. “This place is gonna be poppin’! It’s a real solution for this community.”

Brown said that an estimated 1,200 residents in Ponte Vedra Beach alone are struggling with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. To address that need, the Memory Care Center offers programs for people at various stages of memory loss. The Integrative Memory Enhancement Program offers an ongoing program for individuals with either diagnosed or suspected early-stage memory loss. The five-hour program meets from 9 a.m .to 2 p.m. twice a week and incorporates a variety of games, activities and mental stimulation exercises, along with chair aerobics and meditation.

At the open house, for example, program leaders took participants through a trivia contest, singing popular songs and trying to identify the singer.

“Currently, the Council on Aging operates the program at nine locations across the county,” said IMEP’s Michelle Sanchez, noting that the program fee is $10 per hour. “Some grant funding is available for those who need financial assistance.”

The newly opened adult day care program, meanwhile, provides services for individuals with more advanced memory loss or dementia. Open for three weeks, the adult day care operates from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to a large general gathering space known as the “Sunshine Center,” the facility includes an activities room where participants can take part in arts and crafts and music therapy. Rehabilitation services are also provided on-site by therapists from Brooks Rehab.

“Day services are one piece of the puzzle,” Brown said. “It provides family members with peace of mind and some respite and buys some time during that downward slope. It’s the rational, kind thing for us as a community to do.”The center also provides activities and services for participants’ family members, she added.

“The secondary victim of dementia is the caregiver,” she said, “so we do a lot around providing caregivers with support.”

Council on Aging Executive Director Becky Yanni said that the adult day care center is licensed for 40 participants. Already, the program has eight participants.

“Once the word gets out, we believe it will fill up quickly,” she said. “We know the need is there.”