Please walk in their shoes

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To the Editor:

I was dismayed to read that the finance committees of three of our towns plan to recommend against funding a permanent home for the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living’s indispensable Supportive Day Program (March 19, “County-engineered purchase of VNA building meets resistance”). My dismay turned to a feeling more akin to outrage when I discovered that not a single member of these committees has ever visited the program to discover what it means to its clients and their families.

I cannot overstate its importance to the many Islanders who are, or who care for, frail elders. From the age of 88 until shortly before her death last year at the age of 95, my mother found purpose, companionship, social connection, mental stimulation, music, art, laughter, and love at the Supportive Day Program. For the four days a week she attended the center, I was able to do my work with a clear mind, free of worry about her well-being. It was the most productive work time of my week.

I am not alone. Hundreds of us depend on this service, and dozens more are condemned to a long waiting list, because the current temporary facilities are entirely inadequate to the Island’s current needs — needs which will only grow as our population ages and more of us fall victim to the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease.

I beg the members of the finance committee to do this: Take a ride on the Lift, the bus that picks up the center’s clients and returns them home each day. You will experience a slice of Island life that you may not be aware of. You’ll meet the center’s clients, some in wheelchairs, some on walkers, some leaning heavily on the arms of their loved ones. You’ll travel down some of our most challenging dirt roads to the full range of Island homes, from the poorest cottages to some of the more affluent. What will be the same at each stop: the relief in the face of the caregiver as they see their loved one welcomed aboard, knowing that for a few hours they will be safe, supported, and engaged by the dedicated and skillful staff of the program.

Many of the clients and caregivers who depend on this program are too frail to attend town meeting and vote contrary to the finance committee’s misguided recommendation. There are few, if any, buildings suitable as a permanent home for this program, and the price of such premises can only go up. We need to act now, as a caring community, and secure this excellent site while we have the opportunity to do so.

Geraldine Brooks

West Tisbury