You are not alone. That is the main message Respite Care Charleston wants to share with those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia – especially during this time. You are not alone.
As RCC has shifted from in-person day programs and caregiver support groups to virtual services and conference call meetings, they hold steadfast in their nonprofit mission – to provide support to those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Sara Perry, executive director of RCC, said, “We understand these times of social distancing are especially challenging for dementia caregivers, so we’re adapting to meet their needs and providing lots of one-on-one support.”
During the time of COVID-19, RCC’s nine monthly caregiver support group meetings have switched to conference calls.
“Our support groups reinforce to caregivers that there are other people living with similar situations who can relate. They become like families who are able to encourage each other, share tips and tricks and help figure out ways to deal with challenging behaviors,” Perry added.
For nearly 25 years, RCC has held half-day respite programs that let caregivers have a break while giving participants with dementia a chance for socialization and therapeutic activities. For many families, it’s the only affordable option for caregivers to get a little time to run errands, go to the doctor or just take a few minutes for themselves.
Perry said many of the folks with dementia who frequent the day programs become friends, and staff know them well enough to customize programs to their interests.
“Our respite program is much more than what people think of with adult day care. We’re very active. We dance, sing, joke and just have fun. It’s very lively,” she said
As our lives currently shift, so have the programs at RCC. The organization now hosts virtual programs, providing activity kits with puzzles and games and sending caregivers weekly emails with links and suggestions for other in-home activities.
Virtual programs are offered for one hour, three times a week and include reminiscing discussions, brain games, jokes, music and even light physical activities. Program coordinators make sure each person is personally engaged.
“Because our virtual programs are so small, participants are able to make comments and talk to one another,” Perry added. “They’re getting to interact with people outside of their home, which is especially important for seniors.”
They even started a program that encourages children to create cards for seniors who may be isolated during this time.
It’s estimated that more than 6,000 people in Charleston County have been diagnosed with dementia, and roughly 4 in 5 live at home. There are over 400 types of dementia – Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Last year, RCC served people from 52 to 102 years old. A nonprofit funded primarily by grants, donations, program fees and fundraisers, they will not turn away anyone due to financial challenges.
Although face-to-face interactions have halted for the time being, Perry urges caregivers to stay connected and to reach out to RCC for support from afar. Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. You are not alone – Respite Care Charleston can help.
For more information on Respite Care Charleston, visit www.RespiteCareCharleston.org or call 843-647-7405.
By Theresa Stratford