Longmont Times Call

Longmont's A Day Place opens, taking over where Homestead left off

Longmont’s A Day Place opens, taking over where the Homestead left off


May 19, 2017 at 7:09 pm
When an entrepreneurial nurse, a church, and a hospital in the throes of change join forces, big things happen.

It was March when Longmont United Hospital announced that it would be closing the Homestead, the only independent adult day care center in Longmont. It had operated for 34 years. For the 30 or so families who’d been relying on the facility to help care for their elders, it was a bruising moment.

Renita Henson is a registered nurse who supervised the LUH center. “People kept saying ‘I wish someone could do something,'” she said.

 Within days of the announcement, Henson determined that she would act. The nurse, who had never owned a business, decided that she would start a center.

There wasn’t much time. Homestead would close April 28. They needed the new center to open seamlessly May 1.

She went online and researched what she would need to do to start a for-profit center. A federal tax ID would be required. A city sales tax license was also on the list.

Henson began pounding the pavement looking for a commercial building to lease. All were too expensive.

A client’s family offered to help with the search. They called six churches, none of which had rooms available. Longmont’s First Evangelical Lutheran Church on Third Avenue was the seventh call.

Chris Skultety, the church building manager, picked up the phone. The 50,000 square foot church campus hosts 48 community groups that are nonprofits or have a religious affiliation, he said.

After consulting with church members, they agreed they would allow Henson’s for-profit venture to move in.

“They were an exception,” Skultety said. “But the service they’re providing fits with our mission of helping those in need. Our members were really excited to offer them a room.”

Though Henson lacked business experience she knew she would need cash to pay the small staff, all of whom had worked at Homestead, to pay rent and to buy critical insurance.

Early in the process, she went home from work one night to consult with her husband about money.

Go see some banks, he told her. “The first bank completely blew me off,” she said. “But the second bank liked the idea.”

Not enough, it turns out, to write a blank check. But enough to lend her money as long as she and her husband were willing to put up their home as collateral. Done.

Next they would need furniture and supplies. Longmont United Hospital stepped up, donating them to the church which in turn made them available to A Day Place.

LUH came under fierce criticism for its decision to shut down Homestead. But Vice President of Operations Peter Powers and other staff at the hospital wanted to make sure those 30 patients and their families had a place to go and when Henson stepped in to create a landing pad, the hospital offered to help.

“We did everything we could to make the transition possible,” Powers said. “It’s a positive thing they’re doing.”

Adult day care provides a critical piece of support to families caring for elders with cognitive and physical problems.

According to the National Adult Day Services Association, more than 4,600 centers operate in the U.S. Just 22 percent are for-profit.

Don Greenhalge had been bringing his 86-year-old wife to Homestead for several years.

“It was a disappointment when Homestead closed. It had been a huge part of our lives,” he said. The day care center gave him a break from his caretaking duties and gave his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, a chance to visit with others, to exercise, and to do therapeutic cognitive exercises.

“The only other places were in Loveland and Boulder,” he said. “The closure just about broke our hearts.”

As with Homestead, A Day Place is the only center offering services to the public in Longmont. And that made Henson’s mission and that of Susan Kuhn, the operations director, even more urgent.

Kuhn has been working in the adult day care arena for more than 20 years and sees the population which they serve expanding by the minute.

“There is a growing need for support to help people stay in their homes,” she said.

On a recent Monday morning, the church parking lot on Third Avenue is packed. Parked cars line the street. Inside the church complex, quilters are stitching elaborate works and in a bright, lower level room, Susan Kuhn and her colleague Gail Robinson, are working. Their clients have had a light breakfast, done crafts and are working on exercising in their chairs.

These simple daily activities go a long way toward helping Alzheimer’s patients stay healthy longer, which in turn means they can live independently in the community with their families longer, Henson said.

“Research shows that people with early dementia and Alzheimer’s do better at day care centers because we can keep their brains stimulated. It also gives their caregivers a break. There is a huge need for it,” Henson said.

Eventually she hopes to grow A Day Place, adding more clients. Henson is working with the state to secure Medicaid certification, which will allow more people to use the center.

She also wants to grow so that she can accommodate veterans.

That her fledgling small business came together so quickly is still sinking in. The goal of everyone involved in the project was to ensure that every client at Homestead would have a place to continue receiving care. And it was touch and go up to the last minute.

“Insurance was the hardest part of all of it,” Henson said. “At 6:45 a.m. on the Friday before our Monday opening, I got an email from the insurance agent saying the agency could not write the policy. I had been working with these people for six weeks. It was a heart-attack moment for me.”

She picked up the phone one more time, called the agent’s boss and said, “‘You don’t understand. You have to write this policy. People are expecting those doors to open Monday morning.”

By the end of the day Henson had her insurance in place. And the clients who left the Homestead on Friday afternoon had A Day Place to go to on Monday morning.

That pleases the staff and volunteers at A Day Place immensely. “There was no time lapse,” said activity facilitator Robinson. “Everyone had a place to go.”

 A Day Place

What:  Adult day care center based in Longmont

Address:  803 Third Ave., Room 1

Phone:  303-435-9948

email:  adayplace2017@gmail.com

By : JERD SMITH , Longmont Times Call