Upon entering Peninsula Counseling Center’s “The Club,” at St. Joseph’s Church in Hewlett, three women talk amongst themselves as they wait patiently for their husbands, who are busy dancing down the hall to Van Morrison’s,“Brown Eyed Girl.”
Patricia Crowley is waiting to greet her husband, Richard, who has suffered from dementia since 2006 when he had his first stroke, and another in 2010. She’s been bringing him to “The Club,” a social day-program for men and women, age 60 and over, who are frail due to mental or physical difficulties, for the past seven years. “It’s my only salvation; it gives me five hours of peace two times a week,” the Valley Stream resident said. “He loves it, even though he has no idea where he’s going.”
The group, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays for women and Tuesdays and Thursdays for men, has been around since 1984 and is funded through the Nassau County and New York State offices for the aging, according to Director Ellen Tolle. “It gives participants the opportunity to interact with each other, play cards, exercise, sing and dance,” she said.
Aside from entertaining the participants for the day, Tolle said families attend monthly support meetings. “We offer individual counseling and do home visits to perform a safety check,” she said. “We’re here to make sure they can do everything and can succeed.”
Talking to those who are going through the same thing, according to Crowley, is special, as most people don’t understand what the families of those suffering from mental illnesses go through. “We get to talk about what’s going on and we’re able to meet others who are experiencing the same problems,” she said.
Lorraine Nordlund, a Long Beach resident and social worker at “The Club,” facilitates the monthly support group meetings. “It’s important for caregivers to have emotional support, a shoulder to cry on and someone to rant and rave to,” she said. “No one understands what they’re going through unless they’re in their shoes.”
Merrick resident Ramona Grimm has been taking her husband, Allan, to “The Club” for the past three months after she read about the program in the Nassau County Senior Directory. “I love it, for him and me,” she said. “Allan won’t get off the couch and get dressed most days but he’ll come here.”