Saturday, January 10, 2009

Church cares for dementia and Alzheimer's patients

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

St. Francis Episcopal Church has started a new ministry called Tuesday's Solace.
It's a way for caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer's to get an afternoon of personal time.
'The patients come in for a day of activity,' said volunteer coordinator Ginger Jones of Temple. 'We exercise, sing, play bingo and do arts and crafts. It's good socialization time for them, and it's a good break for their families.'
Having formed in September, the group cares for eight to 10 people with dementia or Alzheimer's 1 to 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday. 'Each patient, or member as we call them, is paired with a volunteer,' said Carole McCall, the volunteer director. 'That volunteer is the member's buddy. They go around and do all the activities with the members.'
To date, the group has about 20 volunteers.
'We were all trained with the Alzheimer's Community Respite of Texas,' Ms. McCall said, mentioning that they modeled their program after the Thursday Club of First Lutheran Church in Temple.
For three years, the Thursday Club has been caring for Alzheimer's patients from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.
'The group has really grown there,' Ms. Woods said. 'And it's proved really useful.'
Ms. McCall said St. Francis decided to start its own program when one of its members became a full-time caregiver to her husband.
'Her husband had Alzheimer's,' Ms. McCall said. 'She worked very hard and had little time to herself. We could really see a need for something like this. And the priest (the Rev. Stan McGraw) said it would be a good opportunity for outreach.'
That woman - Barbara Walsh of Temple - now volunteers her time to Tuesday's Solace.
'I want to help others who are in the position I was in for all those years. It's long and hard work,' Ms. Walsh said. 'Volunteering here lets me use all that experience while doing something rewarding. I'm helping the members and their families.'
The day of personal time is more than help to caregivers like Dianne Staub of Temple.
'It's the best possible gift a person in my position can get,' Ms. Staub said.
She's been caring for her husband John - who has Alzheimer's - for several years now.
'I can leave him at the church and know his mind is stimulated and occupied, and I know he's safe,' Ms. Staub said. 'It gives me peace of mind, so that I can go and get things taken care of. I can go to the bank, to the store and run errands - the things that are harder to do when I'm with him.'
The mood of the St. Francis daycare program is a fun one.
'Everything is upbeat, and we have a good ole' time,' said volunteer Fred Ketz of Temple.
A visit to the Jan. 6 meeting of Tuesday Solace was proof. People smiled as volunteer Pruitt Davis of Temple led the exercise session. He was wearing a red jester's hat. (Wearing a different hat each week is his trademark. Ms. McCall says it makes the members smile.)
'Okay,' Davis said, 'Let's get warmed up. Stretch your right arm, now the other arm.'
Most of the exercises are done from a sitting position in a folding chair. The standing portion is quick, lasting for five of the 20 minutes.
'The exercise moves are approved by Alzheimer's Respite,' Ms. Woods said. 'They're meant to stimulate the mind as well as the body.'
The bingo portion of the day was a favorite activity.
'It gives them a chance to talk to each other while playing a game,' Ms. Woods said. 'They look forward to it.'
Devotional readings also take place each week, and there's time for prayer.
'We also have programs with guest speakers scheduled throught the spring,' Ms. McCall said. 'So there's lots to do.'
To volunteer with Tuesday Solace or take advantage of its free services, call St. Francis Episcopal Church at 773-5676. Donations are welcome at 5001 Hickory Road, Temple TX 76502.

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