Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area
Imagine waking up every day and your daughter and husband are strangers to you. This is the reality for 5.5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Not only is this terrifying for the diagnosed, but it is also something friends and family must face.
Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area has dedicated the past 34 years to teaching, caring for, and connecting with caregivers and individuals experiencing Alzheimer’s and other memory-related disorders. Through efforts like financial literacy programs, lunchtime speakers, and Charlie’s Place, people who live with this disease can learn to navigate the sometimes confusing world of Alzheimer’s.
“The mental picture of Alzheimer’s is an invalid laying in bed who can’t remember anything, but that’s not what it is,” says Barbara Auten, Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area. “There is a good bit of time where those people can really engage in society and have meaningful days.”
Charlie’s Place Activity and Respite Center, a person-centered care program, was a product of this thought process and provides a home-like experience for participants. Activities like pet therapy, cooking with the “Charlie’s Place Culinary School,” and games with friends stimulate cognition and socialization, encouraging a purposeful six-hour day.
Auten’s favorite Charlie’s Place memory is a grumpy older gentleman who came to Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area practically a couch potato. As he became comfortable with the program and bonded with the people there, he began to open up and became verbal, active, and engaged. He mentioned once that he wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge before he died, so Auten bought him a book with 100 pictures of the Bridge. He entered the program in September, and by November, the man’s son was thanking Charlie’s Place for giving him his dad back. By December, the man was playing Santa for the organization’s Pre-K partners, letting them sit on his lap and asking them what they wanted for Christmas.
“This is why I come to work every day,” Auten says. “We don’t get to know them before the dementia. We only see them in their state of dementia, but they are just wonderful people with a lot to give.”
Charlie’s Place in Baton Rouge is a four-time recipient of the Excellence in Care Dementia Program of Distinction from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and has been recognized as a premier Adult Day Center by the National Adult Day Services Association. Every staff
member is a Qualified Dementia Care Provider through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
After so much success, it comes as no surprise that a second Charlie’s Place, Charlie’s Place II, opened in Gonzales in April 2017. It operates two days a week but plans to add more days as enrollment increases to meet the area’s needs.
Programs like Charlie’s Place also give caretakers a break from what is called the “36-hour day,” a new reality many families must face when Alzheimer’s enters their lives. This term expresses how daunting and extensive the work of caretakers can be and how resilient they
are. “Dealing with the families is just an inspiration,” Auten shares. “To know that you have helped a family every day is so special. They are struggling with so much, and it’s a very long-lived disease. But the families are so inspiring.”
This ongoing struggle is why Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area has created specific educational programs that target caregivers and their needs. Lunch-N-Learn is a lunchtime lecture from healthcare professionals that aims at educating caregivers on a number of topics surrounding dementia. The free sessions range from things like “Adjusting to Long Term Care” to “Aromatherapy and Dementia.” There is something for everyone and endless opportunities to improve your experience with Alzheimer’s.
Making Sense of Cents is a three-part program that tackles the age-old issue of money. Caregivers are given resources to understand healthcare insurance and the legal documents surrounding dementia.
Through these lectures, support groups, a HelpLine, and reimbursement programs, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area is dedicated to improving the lives of people with Alzheimer’s right here in our community, and they will continue to make a drastic difference each and every day. Although people living with Alzheimer’s and their families may feel alone, Alzheimer’s Services makes sure they are not forgotten. ■