Game Changers ::: Reflections program offers mental stimulation for Alzheimer’s patients

KAY BRUMBELOW:::

As our elderly population grows, approximately one in eight Americans over 65 have been or will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

However, research indicates that early intervention helps to slow decline in memory. This disease poses real challenges for not only the person diagnosed but also to those who assume caregiving responsibilities.

Reflections, an Alzheimer/Dementia Day Program in Griffin, offers a respite for caregivers while offering interventions for members.

Since 1995, Refelctions has offered a structured program that improves a person’s mental, physical and social activity. The program directors, Martha Dennis and Bunny Steinka, work with around eight members daily, offering a one to four ratio. The women are certified by the Alzheimer’s Association and truly have a heart for what they do.

“My own husband was a member of the program before he passed away, so I have firsthand experience with the disease not only as a director, but also as a caregiver,” Dennis said.

Reflections mission is to “improve quality of life for the Caregiver and care receivers with Alzheimer’s and other Dementias.”

Daily activities include socialization to maintain social skills, cognitive skills for mental stimulation and physical exercises to maintain balance and ambulation/physical skills. The center operates Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Members spend the first 15-30 minutes socializing over coffee or other beverages before moving on to a devotional reading, pledge to the flag and singing God Bless America. They then move on to cognitive activities which include “fill-in” sheets which deal with a particular subject that is of interest to the group. The theme is continued throughout the day in other activities including music. The members then have lunch and then gather in the sitting room for chair exercises and music activities that consists of singing their favorite songs or other music exercises such as “Name That Tune.” The last hour of the day may include table games, cooking or a party for a birthday or other occasion. Segments of movies or music tapes may be used for the last few minutes to relieve anxiety that may occur as members of the group start to leave.

The program also offers a support group for caregivers every third Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Senior Center. “Caregivers are often able to attend sessions because their loved one is at the Reflections Center during that time,” states Steinka.

One of the most important principles of the program is to offer the members respect. “I really felt that Alzheimer’s patients were not getting the respect they deserved. So often, they are viewed as children, but we must realize that they are adults with a wealth of experiences of knowledge and should be treated with the respect they deserve,” states Dennis.

The members form relationships with one another, which are truly necessary. “They communicate spirit to spirit, even when they can’t communicate mind to mind. It is imperative that we minister to them at a spiritual level, and focus on their abilities, not their disabilities,” adds Dennis. We hope to spread this message about our members: “Our value lies in who we are and what we have been, not in our ability to recite the recent past,” states Steinka.

To enroll a loved one in the program, caregivers should contact the Southern Crescent Gateway at 866-854-5652. They can also tour the center by contacting the Reflections center directly. Member prices are set up on a sliding scale, and are open to anyone in the community.

Right now, Relections has a dire need for volunteers to pick up member’s lunches at the hospital cafeteria at 11:45 and deliver them to the center on South Hill Street, minutes away, Monday through Friday. “This service may take 20 minutes out of a person’s day, but would benefit the center and its member in a profound way,” states Steinka. The center is also in need of monetary donations, organizations willing to have fundraisers for the program and dominos and big checker sets.

“Our state funds have been cut in half, yet we serve twice as many members now,” adds Dennis. To volunteer, offer donations or any other service, please contact either Martha Dennis or Bunny Steinka at 770-233-6179. Ω

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