Mr. Dean thinks I have a lovely singing voice. I think he’s being generous, because it’s hard to sing when you don’t know the song, and I’ve never heard “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” before. It’s sing along hour at Dorothy’s Place, and “The Sweetheart” is one of many classic tunes on the docket. Mr. Dean is the first senior to make my acquaintance, and he’s making sure I have everything I need to join the group. He won’t sit down until he’s sure I have a chair. He’s a fan of fishing, I garner from his shirt, and he tells me a little about the best types of lines and lures to use on bass. It’s a great introduction to Dorothy’s Place, a non-profit day services program for persons affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.
The facility is one of two operated by Alzheimer’s Day Services in Memphis. Opened in 2004, Dorothy’s Place provides a safe and stimulating environment where friends can interact together. It’s a fun place for the participants and a respite for caregivers who typically would need to provide round the clock care for their family member. Here at Dorothy’s Place, the Personal Care Attendants are energetic and encouraging, and leading the sing along with gusto. I’ve made Mr. Dean blush by singing “Cuddle Up a Little Closer” at him, so I sit next to Ms. Mary, who has a beautiful voice. She sounds like a church choir to me, but she won’t let me listen instead of singing. I match her big smile as we begin “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain”. Finally, a song I know.
Everyone here has big smiles to match Ms. Mary’s, which is exactly the intention of Alzheimer’s Day Services. They know that part of care for this disease includes staying active, mentally, physically, and socially. They love having volunteers to participate in the group activities, and I’m sure that everyone is made to feel as welcome as I am. After sing along, I join the group tossing balls around. Ms. Latice can dribble like a WNBA star, and she makes me laugh by complaining fiercely about the cold weather. The activity is fun for the friends that are playing, but it’s also a great way to practice all of those different skill sets. A small basketball hoop is brought out, and Ms. Mary scores the first goal. She laughs as her friends clap for her, and brushes it aside as a fluke.
I’m so glad this opportunity is available for these great people and their families. My great grandfather suffered from dementia, and it was not only hard on him, but hard on my family members who were taking care of him. I just kept thinking of the relief that family members must feel, knowing their loved ones are not only safe and well cared for, but having fun. The little details all over the room show the dedication of the staff here at Dorothy’s place. There are small shelves set into the walls that feature personal memorabilia belonging to some of the friends, baseball pennants and cookbooks, cast iron tractor replicas and fishing lures I suspect I know the owner of. There are bright signs, a fish tank full of colorful fish, and pretty patterned cloth napkins I help place on the table for lunch. All of these little markers of the dedication to dignity are the perfect symbols of the mission of Dorothy’s Place. I’m just glad they let me bask in their songs and smiles for the day.
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