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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The Sweetheart of ADS

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Serving lunch at Dorothy's Place

Serving lunch at Dorothy’s Place

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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.

Singing my heart out!

Singing my heart out!

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.

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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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Brightly colored napkins for lunch

One of the "Memory Boxes" at Dorothy's Place

One of the “Memory Boxes” at Dorothy’s Place

Thank you for reading! I am looking for a position with a non-profit that will allow me to use my communication, fundraising, and special event planning skills to impact development at an organization making a positive difference in Memphis. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Forget Me Not

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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.

Cleaning up outside

Cleaning up outside

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.

Getting the bags ready

Getting the bags ready

 

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Lunch Time

Lunch Time

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.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as a business analyst. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: mailto:jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Week 9, Day 2: Ellen at Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis

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Today I had the privilege of volunteering at both of the Alzheimer’s Day Services (ADS) of Memphis day centers doing pet therapy with one of my dogs! Upon arrival at their Dorothy’s Place day center, I was greeted by Development Director, Jon Burchfield. Jon and the whole ADS staff all seem so genuinely invested in creating an environment for those they serve that is both comfortable and engaging; a place where family members can know that their loved ones are being treated with dignity and respect and also alleviates the stress of full-time caregiving. A variety of activities and exercises are thoughtfully structured throughout the day that help maintain fine and gross motor coordination, physical fitness as well as cognitive functioning. Jon explained to me that these exercises can help lengthen the amount of time before more severe effects of Alzheimer’s set-in.

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After Jon gave me a brief orientation of ADS, Cashew (my 85 lb. lab mix who’s a big teddy bear) and I went to go meet our new friends. They were in the middle of an activity called “Music Memories” – a time for listening to and singing along with songs that I presume were popular during their youth. Some leaned back in their chairs with their eyes closed enjoying the music while others sang along word for word from their song books. Cashew and I walked around visiting. Some people were a little apprehensive of Cashew at first while others smiled and put their hands out to pet him.  Initially Cashew was a little nervous surrounded by so many new people. After a while though both Cashew and our new friends realized neither party were liable to be harmful and enjoyed each other’s company.  For a little entertainment Cashew and I danced to the music as he jumped on command to be my dancing partner.

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Afterwards we headed to the Grashot center where we found our new friends playing bingo.  Cashew had warmed up to the idea of meeting a bunch of new people  by the time we got there and was happy to gently approach people while they played. Some shrieked with excitement when Cashew entered the room and couldn’t get enough of him. One woman I think would have been content to have pet him for hours and Cashew gladly obliged. In the end, Cashew had people waiting to interact with him, reaching out their hands, signaling for him to come receive their love.

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As we made the rounds it was so gratifying to see how much happiness a dog can bring. Dogs don’t see Alzheimer’s, disabilities, or illnesses – just people who are willing to pet them and in return  provide kisses, affection, and care. It was such a joy for me that my big, sweet dog was able to be a small part of the terrific services that the ADS centers provide on a daily basis. I hope Cashew was able to bring something special to our new friends’ day.

 

El resumen en español:

Hoy mi perro y yo tuvimos el placer de ir a dos centros diurnos de Alzheimer Day Services (ADS) de Memphis para ser parte de su programa de terapia de mascotas. En este lugar tan lindo las personas con Alzheimer’s pueden ir a pasar al día participando en actividades estructuradas con mucho propósito. A través de las actividades ellos tienen la oportunidad de mantener sus habilidades cognitivas y  desarrollar su forma física. Es un gran alivio para la familia de los que van al centro  saber que además de que hay actividades todo el día, también sus seres queridos serán tratados con cariño, dignidad y respeto.

En el primer centro mi perro, que se llama Cashew, y yo estuvimos visitando con la gente mientras que ellos estaban escuchando y cantando canciones de su juventud. En el segundo centro, la gente estaba jugando bingo.

En cada lugar Cashew fue una fuente de gozo. Fue impresionante de ver como un perro puede traer tanta felicidad a las personas. En fin, los perros no  ven enfermedades, Alzhéimer’s ni discapacidades. Solo ven a humanos dispuestos a darles cariño y en retorno les dan besos, amistad y afecto.  Que gusto fue ser parte, aunque sea pequeño, de los servicios que ASD ofrece día a día a nuestros nuevos amigos. Espero que Cashew les haya llevado algo especial a su día.

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Week 8, Day 2: Miki Skeen at Alzheimer’s Day Services

It must be very taxing to care for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s or related disorders. I imagine it’s just as difficult to leave your loved one in the care of others, considering the added vulnerability. These were the two thoughts that ran through my head on the day I visited Alzheimer’s Day Services (ADS).  I suppose I should have been thinking about how difficult it must be the person who endures the cognitive decline. Still, my thoughts were with the families and caregivers.

When I met all my new friends at ADS, I tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who might be dropping of their mother or brother… or husband. How would I feel about my loved one being a participant in this program?

DSC05065Jon Burchfield, Development Director gave me the detailed tour of the facility and introduced me to the employees with whom I would be working during my time at ADS. Jon said something that really resonated with me. He told me that many friends at ADS are hypersensitive to body language.  At once, I uncrossed my arms and loosened the rigid stance that typically accompanies my nervousness. I looked around the room and noticed the gentle demeanor and warm smiles of all of the Personal Care Attendants who were interacting with ADS participants.

Jon left me with a detailed list of my contributions to the daily activities and introduced me to Activity Manager, Norrell Malone, who put me to work.  The first order of business was to prepare and serve water to all my new friends, with a smile of course. I pushed my water cart around while one group of friends was singing and another group was listening to a reading of the newspaper in the warmth of the sunny garden.

DSC05006The next order of business: Nail painting. Another ADS employee, Ms. Lora, helped me set up my makeshift manicure station. There was very little conversation during my three manicures. However, there seemed to be a meaningful connection as I held the hands of each woman. While I painted nails, sweet Ms. Lora engaged another friend by rolling cloth napkins with silverware for lunch- a very purposeful way of exercising fine motor skills.

Later, the activities switched up and different groups of friends worked together in different parts of the room. While many friends exercised and practiced gross motor skills, I helped with the BINGO, I mean JINGO, station. As a Personal Care Assistant called out clues to Civil War terminology, I helped my friends find the correct words or picture on their cards and place their paper chips on the correct squares. Such great practice with maintaining hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills! After my each friend covered their entire JINGO board, from Harriet Tubman to Robert E. Lee, we moved to another station to exercise!

VO-ADSAs my day wrapped up, I thought to myself what a blessing it must be to have such a safe haven for your loved one. Knowing that the ADS staff is working hard to carefully and meaningfully engage and exercise the minds and bodies of each and every friend must be comforting. What a wonderful place!

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