Forget Me Not.
By: Max Groce
I think the thought of slowly losing awareness can be scary for anyone. I think maybe even a scarier thought is having someone you love succumb to this type of illness. Having Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia can be and is often in most cases the most trying and difficult times in a person’s life, and not only for the person going through it but also the person’s loved ones. It is estimated that in our aging population there are five million people with dementia. Its hard to imagine trying to care for a person with dementia and trying to hold down a job. Today I volunteered at a place that tries to relieve the ocean of stress that comes with that fight.
I arrived around 9:30 to the Alzheimer’s day services of Memphis location. They call it Dorothy’s Place. I enter through the sliding doors and Jon quickly introduces himself and he introduces me to some of the staff. Jon is a volunteer coordinator and from working with him today I realize he kind of does a little bit of everything around the facility. He takes me into the conference room to explain to me what they really do. Dorothy’s Place is a Therapeutic Activities Day Program for people suffering from dementia. Their caregiver’s can bring them to Dorothy’s Place for the day, which allows them to go to work or whatever they need to do. They are a Social Service Provider and are manned with several personal care assistants. Jon explained to me how to interact with some of the friends I would make later that day. He then took me on a tour of the grounds and it was pretty amazing.
The facility has everything to make really anybody comfortable but especially people who need extra care. The first thing they have me do is help clean up their back porch. Jon tells me they use this space in the spring to plant things and that the people there really seem enjoy it. When Jon leads me outside, the area looks like what you expect a backyard entering winter would look like. The back porch is mostly cement with a small garden located in the center with what looks like a half coliseum of stadium seating surrounding it. On the ground there is a mixture of leaves and debris. I take a push broom and begin to make my little piles around the garden while every now and then looking through the large window back at the people inside. I finish up as best I can trying to make it look as best as possible. It’s nice to make it look pretty at least for that little while, so I throw the bag of leaves away and head inside. Next I help some of the staff and friends start to make gift bags for some of their caregiver’s. I’m amazed at the comfort level the staff has with the people there. There isn’t the separation of patient and nurse, the feel is more like the first day of school and seeing friends that you’ve gone to school with for a long time but you haven’t seen them all summer. Some of the people who are there for care joked with me about stealing crackers out of the bag. It gives me an incredible since of optimism to think that despite the trials that some of these people’s mind has gone through, their since of humor still can pierce through the fog of confusion. After we finished with the bags we went over to another area and I helped them with their exercise by playing with them with large bouncy balls and foam disks. It kind of incredible to watch the reactions that they get when they start to toss the Frisbee around to each other, it truly reminds me of the excitement and joy you find in children.
While they finished their exercises I start to help with lunch and pass out mats and silverware. It’s about 12 now and I’m finished, so I say goodbye to the staff and Jon and head home. I really enjoyed the work I did today at Dorothy’s Place. It makes me happy to know that there’s a place that people who are suffering from a difficult affliction like that can at not only get relief but also have fun and still experience some joy’s in life. People believe that dementia makes someone obsolete but that is not the case in any sense of the word. From what I’ve seen today as long as are there are places like Alzheimer’s Day Services and people like the staff that work there, the desire to help people with dementia to feel and see the joy in life will always be nurtured and protected.
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