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.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————
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!
——————————————————————————————————————————————————
——————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

The Sweetheart of ADS

VO-037-e1384545066399-225x300

Serving lunch at Dorothy's Place

Serving lunch at Dorothy’s Place

VO 037

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.

VO 046

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.

VO 061

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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
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!
——————————————————————————————————————————————————
——————————————————————————————————————————————————