The Alzheimer’s Project this Tuesday started a new weekly “Day of Respite” wherein those who care for people with memory issues can have a day to relax, take care of errands, or otherwise take advantage of the chance to take some time away from the demands of direct physical care.

On Tuesdays, once they sign up for the free service in order to be sure their loved one is a good fit, and to share pertinent information that respite workers will need, they can drop off their loves ones for a day of activities and care carried out by trained volunteers and AP representatives at Trinity Baptist Church in Marianna. The program opened up here thanks to a recent grant that allowed the Alzheimer’s Project to extend its reach into Jackson and a few more surrounding counties. The unencumbered time can be used for rest, errand-running or for any other purpose desired by the caregivers.

Only one person was dropped off for a day with the respite team on its first day of service, but AP representative Laura Kelly said it was a good start.

“We played dominoes, Connect 4, bowling, and ring toss. We also had wonderful conversations about favorite old songs and TV shows, did some word and number puzzles, and had lunch,” Kelly said.

AP’s Rural Outreach Case Manager, Kelly said the program has expanded into Calhoun and Madison counties as well and that she expects interest to be high here once word spreads of its availability.

The AP team also plans a training day for those who wish to help at the weekly respite days. The date of that training will be announced soon.

If you want to help but don’t have the time or ability to serve on the care team there are other ways to assist in getting the program going. Donations of money, small snacks and things that could be used as game prizes would be welcome, Kelly said, as the days at Trinity will be filled with as much activity as possible and desired by the people who spend time there during the respite hours, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Tuesday.

Because there is no mandatory charge to the families that use the service — although those who can afford it are encouraged but not required to donate $20 per day of use — the non-profit AP group must absorb the financial obligations through its funds. Kelly said a few dollars, snacks or giftables are much appreciated under the circumstances. To find out more about how to give, volunteer, or to get signed up for the service, call 850-386-2778.

Volunteers will be trained in how to relate to people who may have dementia or other memory-robbing and/or personality-affecting conditions. They’ll always be supported on site by AP personnel, Kelly added.

AP expects to be able to commit to the respite days for at least a year and there are efforts underway to secure grant funding for the following year and over the longer term as well.

Kelly said there are good indicators that legislators are showing support for additional funding, and that it will be vital going forward. “We do know that the numbers (of memory-affected individuals) are high in the Panhandle and the rural areas, where there aren’t a lot of resources to give some relief to the caregivers. We’re proud to be here to help fill that gap and we want to continue on into the future,” she said. To be eligible for the respite care day given to their loved ones, Kelly said, a person need not have officially been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other ailment, she added, but must simply be showing signs of memory impairment. They also do need to be able to feed themselves, she added, in order to participate in the program, and there are behavioral aspects that must be within guidelines.

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