Thank You for Being A Friend

Dorothy's Place

Friends, I’m not going to lie, when I woke up this morning I was pretty tuckered out. It has been a long week of volunteering. I really didn’t think I would be affected this way – a couple hours a day at a different spot? No problem! Boy was I wrong. The stories I’ve heard, the people I’ve met and the love that I’ve been putting into everyday has caught up with me. That coupled with a slightly irrational apprehension towards my location today: Dorothy’s Place.

Dorothy’s Place is a part of the Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis, a non-profit 501(c)3 that provides day services for members of the Memphis community affected with an aspect of dementia. Dorothy’s Places provides extremely affordable, in comparison with hospice or hospital care, and inclusive activities for their “friends.” Friends is the term used for those that come to Dorothy’s Place. The function of the center is to enhance the quality of life and to recognize their capabilities, not disabilities. Development Director, Jon Burchfield, puts it as sustaining the dignity of their friends, who are, after all, our elders. Even as I was talking to Jon and receiving all this information, I felt my nerves. How was I going to cope if someone asked me if I was their niece? Was I going to be awkward and mess up? Was this just going to be too sad?

the many facets

the many facets of dementia

 

Now this is something that my friends and family will never believe I am saying. I loved being proven wrong. My time at Dorothy’s Place and the friends that I have helped alter my perspective of people with dementia.

Small disclaimer: I did a pretty poor job with my photographs today. I got really caught up with time at Dorothy’s Place and the HIPPA requirements not to show friend’s faces. Apologies.

Prior to meeting Jon and getting a fantastic education about dementia, I received a joyful greeting from Tanya. She mans the front desk and so much more – she provides sunshine and laughter for everyone who walks in, that is, if she lets you in.

entranceway

entranceway

Following my overview of the program, I was shown around the facility, which is beautiful. Everything is painted with beautiful murals not only to make the facility more aesthetically pleasing but also with great intent to guide friends around the facility with walking paths and signs above each room and alcove. I was immediately introduced to Norrell (a personal care assistant), Ms. Greta and Ms. Ellen. We were tasked with making sugar cookies that would be later given to the firefighters and policeman as a thank you. Even with my nerves, I was immediately put at ease by Ms. Greta.

cookie making!

cookie making!

We dove right into those cookies as she regaled me with stories of her childhood and how her mother taught her how to cook and bake. It took us a couple tries to get the dough consistency just right but she and I taste tested for quality control. We cut Christmas trees, reindeer and snowmen that we would later decorate with icing.

Post cookie making, I helped with jingo time, a bingo style game, and exercise time. I was not only impressed with the clarity that the friends possessed and the relentless energy of all the personal care assistants that were there.  They are tireless. They know the idiosyncrasies and particularities of each friend all while being incredibly relaxed within those interactions.

busy busy bees!

Busy, busy bees!

Everyone that works at Dorothy’s Place is amazing. Not only are they great with the friends but their energy knows no bounds – take a look at the schedule, it’s packed! I am so happy I got the opportunity to go to Dorothy’s Place and meet the friends, personal care assistants and staff. Although I was there with the idea that I would help to have a positive affect on their lives, I think the role was really reversed. They helped to not only prove me wrong but also changed my outlook completely.

Thank you for being a friend.

Catch you on the next safari stop.

Love,

Ari

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.
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Week 6, Day 2: Brittany Tuggle at Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis, Inc.

Today was my second day with Volunteer Odyssey. I spent the morning at the Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis. The center provides activities and care for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Everyone who enters the center is considered a friend, no one is just a volunteer, a participant, an employee. Calling someone a friend makes you feel comfortable and welcomed.

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As I was taking the tour, I noticed that it was one large space but divided in different areas.   There was a fish tank and bird cage full of finches. There was a game room, arts and crafts, a kitchen. Each group of friends had several nurses with then. The nursing staff keeps everyone entertained, active, and happy. I read the morning newspaper to my group of friends, I asked them their thoughts on the topic. We had a good time. I was fortunate to participate in the morning sing-a-long which is about 30 minutes. It was good to see how no matter where any group was located in the room, they were all singing together. I helped with their exercises which are focused on fine motor skills.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After volunteering with several groups, it was time for me to put myself in their shoes. I participated in the Dementia Sensitivity Experience. The purpose of the experience was to truly understand how someone with Dementia does everyday tasks we take for granted.

My hands were in prickly gloves, the sensation was strange. My fingers were taped together to give me the feeling of having arthritis  I had on these goggles that were blacked out around my peripheral area, and there were black dots in front of my eyes. I couldn’t really see. I was also given insoles that were prickly too! The final piece of “garb” was a set of noise cancelling headphones that played a talk show or white noise that I couldn’t really understand.

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After I was all dressed up, I was taken to a darkened room where I was given a set of tasks to complete in 5 minutes.  I could not remember my  tasks. I couldn’t pick up something as small as a napkin. I dropped silverware. I couldn’t see plates that were right in front of me. I attempted to fold socks, that was so frustrating. I felt myself becoming more agitated. I mean, I know how to fold socks. I felt tears starting to form. Why in the world could I not remember? All of a sudden, time was up!It was the longest 5 minutes of my life.photo (1)

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When I took the post survey, I had a better idea of how someone with Dementia felt. The facilitator shared with me what tasked I completed, which was not very many. I told her I felt confused, frustrated, and agitated. If I felt that only after 5 minutes. I can only imagine how someone lives with feeling like that every day. The Dementia Sensitivity Experience is something I highly recommend to anyone. If you’ve ever been curious about what it’s like. If there is a family member who has Dementia. It made me more aware of the friends I met earlier today.

I had an eventful day. It was an eye-opening experience. I am actually going back tomorrow to help with an event called, Forget Me Not. The event takes people through the Dementia Sensitivity Event. It will be very interesting to see how other people feel after the activity is over.

I am very grateful to the Alzheimer’s Day Services staff and the wonderful friends I met today.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job opportunity where I can apply my PR and Marketing knowledge at a nonprofit organization. I am also interested in development, event planning, and fund raising. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com

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If you like our work, please consider making a contribution to keep it going!

Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!
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