MJCCA’s Weinstein Center program for seniors to end this month

Officials at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta said it plans to close the Weinstein Center for Adult Day Services at the end of June.

The closing of the program, which has been in existence since 1982, leaves dozens of older clients and their families quickly looking for other day care options.

It couldn’t come at a worse time for the area, which is experiencing a rise in the number of seniors and the need for more services.

By 2030, one in five residents in the Atlanta region will be over 60, experts say. And according to the 2010 census, people ages 45 to 64 make up the fastest-growing segment in the Atlanta region, showing the greatest percentage increase between 2000 and 2010.

Gail Luxenberg, CEO of the MJCCA, said case managers are working closely with participants and their families to aid in that transition. The MJCCA in Dunwoody is also working with about 20 staffers affected by the closing.

The decision to close the program, which has been under discussion for about a year, was a difficult, but necessary one, she said. Nearly all of the participants have significant mental and physical health issues.

“It’s a very difficult to serve population,” Luxenberg said. “There are a lot of medical disabilities. There are also a lot of dementia and memory issues. This was the most vulnerable of the population. We had a lot of slips and falls.”

On any given day, as many as 65 seniors participate in the program. Luxenberg said the average age is late 70s, although there are younger people with severe disabilities.

Although the Weinstein Center was able to help many, in the end, the decision was reached that “we are not a medical facility, we’re a recreational facility.”

The closing will affect people such as Dr. Abe Velkoff, who will soon be 102 years old and regularly attends the day care center.

His daughter, Ann Podber, said she’s “very upset” about the closing and doesn’t think there is enough time to find another place for her dad, who suffers from mild dementia and mild macular degeneration.

“It’s such a wonderful place,” said Podber, who is worried about how the change will affect him.

“It’s a challenge for those with memory issues to learn and adapt to a new place, both physically as well as the new people,” she said.

Finding suitable day care facilities for seniors will likely become more of an issue as the population grays and lives longer.

Kathryn Lawler, manager of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Aging and Health Resources Division, said the Weinstein program set a high standard in services.

“It’s a tremendous loss for the families and the region,” she said. “At a time when there is a need for more services, it’s surprising and disappointing that the Weinstein Center has to close.”

Its closing, though, is likely to result in discussion at the regional level about ways to spur development of quality programs like the one at the MJCCA.

Weinstein Center participants currently funded with ARC funding have been offered temporary enrollment in the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Time Out Program in partnership with the ARC. This is designed to assist the participants and family members so they can offset the cost of care while transitioning to a new respite care provider.

This program will be available to assist with payment for care for up to 45 days from July 1 through Aug. 15. They may choose to use the funds for out-of-home respite care or in-home respite care.

Before announcing the decision to end the program, Luxenberg said staffers examined other alternatives as well as what type of public funding would be available to offset the cost “so families won’t get left high and dry.”

Many of the seniors received public funds to help pay for services, Luxenberg said. A small minority were private payers, and those prices ranged from $62 a day to $67 a day, depending on the level of care.

Although the adult day program is ending, seniors will not be left out of MJCCA activities.

“We will continue to expand programming for active adults and mature adults with an offering that ranges from fitness and wellness options to trips, social events, and learning opportunities,” President Doug Kuniansky said in a statement.