Celebrate... for a Cause
Statistically, an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease might live another seven to ten years. On the other hand, that person’s spouse acting as their caregiver might only have three to five more years to live. Such is the physical and emotional toll caring for a dementia patient takes on a loved one.
The Alzheimer’s Alliance Tri-state Area’s Our Place Day Respite Center is working to improve such outcomes by providing regular time off and much-needed rest for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. The patients, called “friends,” receive social and cognitive stimulation in a safe, supportive, and engaging environment. Everybody wins, including the many volunteers who help to staff the six-hour sessions three times a week.
Our Place Day Respite Center is a cozy spot that, in many ways, resembles a residence. A large, cheery kitchen dominates the respite area; its tables are festively adorned with decorations appropriate to whatever holiday approaches. Volunteers are all smiles. Friends gather for games, snacks, crafts, and other activities. The volunteer-to-friend ratio is at least one to one.
Music therapy is a favorite, and one volunteer observed it to be particularly effective. Guest performers come to share their vocal and instrumental talents, and friends become particularly engaged.
“We have a friend who is non-verbal,” reported Arnold. “When the music for Amazing Grace came on, he started singing. He knew every word. It really was pretty amazing.”
The stimulation friends receive during respite care enhances their quality of life in numerous ways. Many families notice improvements in appetite and sleep among participants; all report their loved ones are enthusiastic about coming to Our Place.
And the caregivers? What do they do while their loved ones are at Our Place? They get respite, which is defined as a short period of rest or relief from something difficult. Caregivers might sleep, run errands or go to a movie. Freed from the constant demands of caregiving, they recharge their batteries. It is estimated that each day of respite adds 23 days to a caregiver’s life expectancy.
“Our main problem,” said Arnold, “is convincing caregivers that respite is in everyone’s best interest. It is like the oxygen masks on airplanes; they always tell you to put on your own before you help someone else with theirs. You have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of anyone else.”
“Many spouses are hesitant to take time off, citing their marriage vows about sickness and health, and we understand this reasoning. But we also know they might not last as long as their Alzheimer’s patients will if they do not care for themselves. Statistics show one out of five family caregivers dies before their person with dementia dies.”
Support groups are an important part of the Alliance’s mission. Caregivers, who are often somewhat socially isolated, benefit from sharing their experiences with others who truly understand. A monthly Memory Café on Saturday morning offers an opportunity for caregivers and friends to socialize.
Education, support, and awareness are hallmarks of what this organization, founded almost forty years ago in a local family’s living room, stands for. That original support group has grown into an organization that provides support to Alzheimer’s patients and their families in 22 counties in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
All of it is made possible by the Twice as Fine Texarkana Wine Festival, which uncorks this year on Saturday, May 6, at Spring Lake Park. The eighth annual event, voted Best Charity Event every year since 2018, is themed “Celebr8 Good Times... Come On!” It promises food, music, arts, crafts, wine, and more, with an accent on fun for everyone.
More than 25 wineries from across the state of Texas will offer their wines for tasting and purchase. Local and regional merchants will provide a wide variety of unique items for sale. Foods of every kind will satisfy the palate, and music will soothe the soul.
“There is truly something for everyone,” said event co-chair Cathy Van Herpen. “Even if you aren’t a wine drinker, you will still find many things to keep yourself entertained and satisfy your hunger, thirst, and spirit of adventure.”
Cathy and her husband, Mark, have overseen the Wine Festival since its inception in 2015. Both are members of the Alzheimer’s Alliance Tri-State Board of Directors and understand the importance of the organization’s work in the Texarkana area.
“Alzheimer’s impacts the lives of more than 17,000 families in our area,” said Executive Director Terrie Arnold. “The Alzheimer’s Alliance works diligently to provide these families with education and support and to improve their quality of life. Funding from the Wine Festival allows us to continue this mission.”
Last year’s event drew more than 15,000 attendees, and organizers expect that number to increase in 2023. Event co-chair Mark Van Herpen appreciates the support of attendees, sponsors, and volunteers.
“Our community has really embraced this event, and we’re thankful. Our sponsors make it possible, and our volunteers make it happen. Our committee numbers almost 50, and many more volunteers work very hard the weekend of the festival,” he said. “It’s great to see everybody working together on behalf of families affected by Alzheimer’s.”
Admission to the Twice as Fine Texarkana Wine Festival is free. Twenty dollars gets you into the Wine Garden for tastings, a souvenir wine glass, and a wine bag. Wine will be available by the taste for one dollar or by the glass for five dollars. Bottles will also be for sale. A beer booth will serve those who prefer alternate libations.
Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Alliance Tri-State Area faces these grim statistics head-on, and the Twice as Fine Wine Festival is just one of the ways they do it. The event is all about fun, but its purpose could not be more serious. Everyone is invited to be a part of improving the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and their families by coming to Spring Lake Park on May 6. The fun, while a bonus, is a sure thing. So, celebrate good times… come on!