Local Teens Volunteer at Alzheimer’s Center
Kendra Kahn (from left), Ernest Williams, Charde Moore and JaQueria Rogers disassemble packets of flatware at the Jud C. Hickey Center for Alzheimer’s Care as part of their volunteer service through the International Baccalaureate program at the Academy of Richmond County.
Photos by Charmain Z. Brackett
By 3 p.m., the back room of the Jud C. Hickey Center for Alzheimer’s Care is quiet. Most of the clients are in another room participating in group activities and getting ready to end their day so it’s easy for International Baccalaureate students from the Academy of Richmond County to slip in almost unnoticed and begin their volunteer duties.
There, they take the rubber bands off the plastic flatware and remove folded paper from envelopes.
“We do therapeutic exercises here,” says Nancy Calfee, director of the center. Clients at the day center fold clothes, sort flatware and stuff envelopes. “We have to undo these tasks so they can redo them later. We can’t do it in front of them. Everything we do in the center is to build them up.” For some of the clients with dementia, they think these tasks they are performing are their own volunteer service or their job. Calfee says it gives them a sense of accomplishment to complete the tasks.
A Younger Generation Serves an Older Generation
To ensure the staff has time to spend with the clients, the volunteers step in. “The stuff we are doing is the stuff they would have to do. We are taking something off their shoulders,” says Ernest Williams, a junior in the IB program.
A handful of students spent most of their junior year volunteering once or twice a week at the center starting in the fall. Besides helping ready the daily tasks for the clients, spring volunteer tasks have included sweeping away pollen and light housekeeping such as removing the trash. The students also helped reorganize the craft closet and the supplies. Once they finish those types of tasks they interact with the clients who attend the day center.
Sometimes, the teens sang with them. “We sing old songs,” says Williams. “Like Buffalo Gals and By the Light of the Silvery Moon.”
Their volunteer service was a requirement of the International Baccalaureate Creativity, Action and Service Project, but the students say they were glad to be able to give back this group of people afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s. “It’s good to know I’m helping someone else,” says JaQueria Rogers, a student who knows what it’s like to deal with difficult life circumstances. She was 18 months-old when the car she was in was hit by a drunk driver, leaving her a paraplegic.
While volunteering at the center left her with a good feeling inside, she says there was more to the experience. “We don’t just volunteer to get something in return. We can easily do a few things here and there to get the required service. We come here because we want to,” she says. And she said she’d like to return to the center next school year to volunteer.
An Education in Alzheimer’s
The greatest eye-opener for the teens, however, was learning about this disease. Most of them had never had any experience with it. Prior to them starting their service, Calfee sat down and gave them an overview of the center and the people it serves.
“I had heard about Alzheimer’s, but I didn’t have anyone in my family with it,” says Williams.
Calfee says she is grateful for the students who give their time. “It’s been great. Anything that needs to be done, they are excited to do it,” she says.
Calfee relies on a lot of volunteers and on partnerships with other community organizations to complete her mission.
The Jud C. Hickey Center for Alzheimer’s Care is located on Central Avenue, a couple of blocks from ARC. It is a non-profit organization funded by donations, a grant from the state of Georgia and the small fees it charges its clients.
Calfee says fees are based on a sliding scale according to the income of the client not the caregiver.
The purpose of the center is to provide a safe place for adults with Alzheimer’s to go during the day. Sometimes, their caregivers work during the day or need time to run errands and keep appointments and need a safe environment for them.
“We want to keep the client functioning independently as long as possible with dignity. We want them to have quality days,” says Calfee. Letting them stay at home in front of the television and frequently falling asleep causes a rapid decline into the disease, she says.
The center offers structured activities from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. In addition to the therapeutic exercises of folding clothes and sorting flatware, there is music, art and pet therapy, range of motion exercises and games involving reminiscing.
The center serves about 51 clients but the number varies. Some months, the center will gain clients, while losing others who go to nursing homes. The center’s clients must not be wheelchair-bound, but some do walk with the use of walkers. Some clients come once or twice a month, while others are there each day. “It’s up to what will help the caregiver,” says Calfee.
The center always has at least one registered nurse on duty on the premises at all times and usually an LPN as well. Calfee is a retired nurse and has been the director since 1999. Other staff members work with clients in small groups.
Among the partnerships are programs with nursing students at Georgia Health Sciences University, nurse and social work students from Augusta State University and occupational therapy students at Augusta Technical College. Also, students from A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School volunteer. Calfee estimates she has the help of about 200 volunteers.
In addition to the on-site services, the Hickey Center offers in-home respite care based on the availability of staff. Services with the respite care include assistance with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation and the incorporation of activities to stimulate mental health.
To find out more, call the center at 706-738-5039 or visit www.judchickeycenter.org.
-Charmain Z. Brackett is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of three.