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Agrace to open adult day care center in Madison
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Agrace to open adult day care center in Madison

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Donna and Natalie walking down hallway

Agrace, a Fitchburg-based provider of hospice care that in 2017 opened a grief support center, shown here, plans to open an adult day care center in Madison in May.

Agrace is opening an adult day care center on Madison’s South Side, becoming the second facility in the city to offer the service, which can provide mental stimulation and reduce isolation for older adults while offering respite to family caregivers.

Life expectancy in the U.S. decreased in the first six months of 2020, according to the CDC. Thats no surprise to experts who predicted a combination of COVID-19's physical, financial and mental impact would lead to something like this.  According to the preliminary data, the number of years one can expect to live dropped by one year, from 78.8 years to 77.8 years.While that doesn't sound like a whole lot at a population level, this is a huge decline, said Robert Anderson with the CDC.In 2006, life expectancy across the board began to tick upward, but the number has never been equal between Black and White Americans. In 2020 that gap widened, with the life expectancy for Black men decreasing by three years. You've seen it in the way the vaccine access is rolled out. And now we're seeing it in the ultimate numbers, which is what it's doing to life expectancy for our populations, said Dr. Stella Safo. Dr. Stella Safo, a physician specializing in infectious diseases and HIV, says the disparity issue is centuries in the making. It's all about social determinants of health, which is just a fancy way to say how we live. And how we lived in this country is one that has been founded on different groups being treated very differently, said Safo. A new study from the University of California San Francisco suggests up to 30,000 of the excess deaths across the board were not directly linked to the COVID-19 virus but caused by unemployment. We see disproportionate impacts across a range of health outcomes, because they're all artifacts of the same longstanding unjust social structures, things like income inequality and structural racism and the unequal and unfair distribution of power and resources and opportunities, said Ellicott Matthay with the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics University of California, San Francisco. While the numbers and reasons are still becoming clearer, the societal toll of those excess deaths is almost immeasurable. Like Earnest and Anne Wilkins, who recently passed away from COVID-19 only a day apart. They were married 33 years. The data from the CDC was only from January to June of last year, early on in the pandemic. And some experts are looking for the lifespan numbers to rebound as the virus is contained and people are vaccinated. Amber Strong, Newsy, Northern Virginia. 

Fitchburg-based Agrace — which provides hospice care, palliative care, home care and grief support — plans to open the adult day care center in May in the former A1 Furniture store along the Beltline between Fish Hatchery Road and Todd Drive.

“We see this growing population of seniors who want independence and would like to stay in their homes, but oftentimes they need more socialization so they’re not in isolation,” said Marcia Whittington, Agrace’s chief development officer.

“We see caregivers who absolutely need a break,” Whittington said. “We see kids who are taking care of their parents, and they’re still working, and need a safe place for mom or dad to go.”

Dane County has six adult day care centers for the elderly, according to the state Department of Services, though one of the facilities listed by the department closed last year. A center run by Catholic Charities on the Southeast Side takes up to 120 people. A center run by SSM Health on the East Side, which took 30 people, closed last spring.

Colonial Club in Sun Prairie can take 28 people, Oregon Area Senior Center in Oregon can take 16, Madison-area Rehabilitation Centers in Stoughton can take 12 and Milestone Senior Living in Deerfield can take six.

The Madison area has more adult day care centers than many parts of the state, but generally they haven’t been enough, said Joy Schmidt, Dane County’s dementia crisis program specialist. “There’s definitely been some need, especially closer to the West Side of Madison,” she said.

Agrace’s center, to be open in early May in the remodeled former A1 Furniture at 1702 W. Beltline Drive, will take 24 people initially and eventually up to 64, said Kewana Jamison, nurse manager for the center. The facility will accept older adults with or without dementia, Jamison said.

Services include activities such as crafts, board games, chair yoga and Wii sports, along with meals and giving medications, for $77 a day. Baths and transportation are available for an additional cost.

Insurance generally doesn’t cover adult day care, so most clients pay out of pocket. Some assistance may be available for people with lower incomes.

Agrace opened a standalone grief support center in 2017. In 2019, it converted some beds at its inpatient center in Fitchburg into a secure unit for people with dementia.

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