“They won’t be able to remember what you said, but they will remember the love,” said Katie Holland, Director of the Respite Care Ministry in Dothan, Alabama. Respite care is temporary care of a dependent elderly, ill, or handicapped person, which provides a break for their usual caregivers. The Respite Care Ministry in Dothan is designed for caregivers of older adults suffering from memory loss.

People who suffer from memory loss and dementia need constant supervision, and often this care is given at home by the adult children, spouse, grandchildren or other close relatives. It is exhausting work, with few breaks, little rest, and almost no time to take care of life’s necessary chores, like purchasing groceries or mowing the lawn.

Katie’s own father had dementia, and at the time of her exploration for help, she discovered that there were very few resources. As Director of Older Adult Ministries at First Dothan, Katie was asked to explore a respite ministry. “I visited Grace Arbor in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and then the respite ministry at Montgomery First United Methodist. I fell in love with the program there,” expressed Katie. “I knew that if this program had been there for my dad, it would have been a game changer.”

Operating out of the First United Methodist Church in Dothan, the Respite Care Ministry opened in 2016 with four participants who gathered for a few hours with volunteers on Tuesday and Thursdays. Today, Katie organizes more than 100 volunteers to care for 20 participants, and they are open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, providing a variety of activities like art therapy, music, exercise, cognitive games, and a family-style lunch.

“We are relatively new, entering our 3rd year, and we have to prove ourselves,” said Katie. “People are just now realizing the value of what we do, and understanding how we are a lifeline impacting the life of both caregiver and participant.”

Respite ministries specifically designed for persons with dementia are a relatively new phenomenon, beginning to pop up in various places across the United States only in the last few years. As yet, there is no formal network to link these valuable resources together, but there are a few resources that can be found online to guide people who want to begin some kind of respite program and some churches that are willing to share their own successes. Plus, a few respite ministries are showing up on Facebook.

But Katie explains that most of her referrals in the Dothan program come by word of mouth, so if you are a caregiver who could use a respite care ministry, keep looking and asking. Where respite care ministries can be found they are changing the lives of not only the caregivers, but also the loved ones suffering with dementia and the volunteers who work with them.

“The participants are showered with love and reminded that God has not forgotten them,” declared Katie. “And the volunteers feel good about helping caregivers get a break. They leave with a heart full of love and purpose. We tell our volunteers that they won’t be able to remember what you said, but they will remember the love. They will have a positive emotional memory. They felt good, safe and encouraged.”

Another outreach to caregivers provided by the Respite Care Ministry is a volunteer-led caregiver support group. The support group shares valuable insights and experiences with one another, and also provides a platform to prepare caregivers for the next stage when they may no longer be able to care for their loved one by themselves.

“Our program is specifically designed for people experiencing early stage dementia,” Katie explained. “Participants must be able to go to the bathroom by themselves, feed themselves, walk, and function in group. Through the caregiver support group, we get them ready for the next phase so that they are not in crisis mode. We give them the names of facilities to get on waiting lists, and schedule tours.”

One such facility in Dothan is Wesley Place on Honeysuckle, which is capable of providing care for persons with mild, moderate and advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s, whether in assisted living and in long-term nursing care. A community of Methodist Homes of Alabama & Northwest Florida, Wesley Place on Honeysuckle in Dothan, AL, has adopted a resident-directed approach when caring for older adults, including those with mild to moderate dementia and Alzheimer’s.

If you would like to know more about Wesley Place on Honeysuckle’s community for adults age 62+ who suffer from memory loss, please contact us at (334) 792-0921. You can learn more about the Respite Care Ministry at First United Methodist Church of Dothan by clicking here to visit their website.

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