Carla Creegan, program director of the Auer Szabo Empath Adult Day Center in St. Petersburg, said Empath Health dedicated the center at 340 49th St. S, in St. Petersburg, to focus on the psychosocial and recreational needs of military veterans to keep them healthy at home.
By Karen Davis-Pritchett M.Ed., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
It doesn’t take long to realize there is something different and special about the new Auer Szabo Empath Adult Day Center.
You first notice a large red, white, and blue Donor Wall of Honor as you walk through the door. To the right is a cozy area with an electric fireplace and a small Veterans Library and Museum. When you turn around, there is a line of military service flags beside a Table of the Missing Man and Woman.
It’s obvious this is a peaceful place for those who proudly served their country.
Adult Day Center Program Director Carla Creegan, MSN, RN, said Empath Health has dedicated the center at 340 49th St. S, in St. Petersburg, to focus on the psychosocial and recreational needs of military veterans to keep them healthy at home.
“Veterans often relate best to other veterans, especially as they age,” Creegan said. “We are trying to create a culture, an atmosphere similar to a VFW hall where they will want to come. I’m hoping that as they walk in the doors and see some of the military-related items, it will comfort them, and they will want to stay. And that they will find a special camaraderie with other veterans and our staff.”
Creegan, who has worked for Empath Health for 13 years, was previously the Suncoast PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) Day Center manager. She said the Auer Szabo Adult Day Center would be similar to the PACE Day Center, though it is not affiliated with the PACE program.
Empath Health recognized a need for day center care for Pinellas County’s veteran population. The county is home to more than 80,000 veterans, many of whom are experiencing isolation, depression, physical and psychosocial challenges and caregivers experiencing burnout.
The Adult Day Center will provide veterans and other adults access to comprehensive services, including medical care, physical, occupational and group therapies; nutritious hot meals and snacks; group activities; one-on-one or group support; and more. A Veterans Administration benefit for Adult Day Health Care will cover the cost for most veterans.
Connecting veterans with their peers is an important goal of the Adult Day Center programming. Creegan said research has shown that social isolation can be as hard on the body as cigarette smoking. It negatively affects cardiovascular health and can result in seniors neglecting diet, hygiene, and exercise.
The Day Center will allow caregivers to have a break while the participant is engaged in activities, have access to medical monitoring and be in an environment that was made specially to benefit their well-being.
Empath Health held a grand opening for the new facility in October. Creegan hopes to begin serving veterans at the center in November, just in time for Veterans’ Day.
Empath Health has a long history of providing care and support for veterans under its Empath Honors program. This includes being a Five-Star Partner, the highest level possible, in the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s We Honor Veterans Program and a partner with the Honor Flight Network.
Veteran to Veteran volunteers offers camaraderie only fellow veterans can relate to and are facilitators in the Veterans History Project, where veteran stories are collected in partnership with the Library of Congress. Empath Honors also provides monthly informational and support options throughout served communities.
To learn more about the Adult Day Center program, call (727) 328-6428 or visit EmpathADC.org. Learn how you can financially support veterans through this new program at SuncoastHospiceFoundation.org.