- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - The Respite Care Ministry at First United Methodist Church opened in January with two participants. As word of the program spread, more participants signed up. And not even a year after it opened, the program has received recognition for its efforts to help people with dementia and their caregivers.

“I knew what we were doing here was pretty exceptional, but I just didn’t know if anybody else knew,” Director Katie Holland said. “I knew what happened inside these walls and what we were doing and how excited the volunteers were, but I just didn’t know if anybody else out there knew really what was happening.”

They did.

The Southeastern Association of Area Agencies on Aging, which covers eight states, recently recognized the Respite Care Ministry for its work with older people. Terri Francis, director of community resources at the local Southern Regional Council on Aging, nominated the program for recognition. The award acknowledges outstanding contributions by religious institutions or service agencies and organizations.

The Respite Care Ministry at First United Methodist Church in Dothan is designed for people with dementia, whether it’s dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease or Parkinson’s disease. Volunteers are trained to work with participants for four hours a few days a week. The goal is to give caregivers a break while also keeping people with dementia active and engaged. There are activities such as mind teasers, crafts, puzzles, animal therapy, music and exercise.

The program recently expanded from two days a week to four days a week.

“It’s very exciting and it’s very scary,” Holland said

The Respite Care Ministry currently has 11 participants enrolled for the Tuesday and Thursday programs. Adding Monday and Wednesday programs will allow the Respite Care Ministry to take in new participants while allowing the current participants to come more than twice a week if they choose.

Holland said it’s been hard to tell people they have to go on a waiting list because the current two days were full.

“We’re just full, that’s all there is to it,” she said.

While Holland has a roster of more than 60 volunteers who rotate working, she needs more to accommodate the expanded schedule. Some volunteers don’t work every day and some can only work certain days or only every so often.

“We have a lot of volunteers for Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we’re really going to need some more for Mondays and Wednesdays,” Holland said.

The Respite Care Ministry’s growth is on target with what was expected but has been faster than similar programs elsewhere that have been running longer. Holland said those established programs - such as one in Montgomery - helped pave the way for newer programs to open more smoothly.

“That wheel had been invented, and they kind of helped us with a lot of the getting-up-and-getting-going part,” Holland said. “Some of that troubleshooting was done for us so we could hit the ground running.”

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Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com


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