Christmas lights, a spread of good food, a life-sized cutout of Marilyn Monroe ... and Elvis!
Or someone, Jay Dupuis, who sang and looked very much like him.
The recent ’50s dance celebrating the fifth anniversary of Charlie’s Place, the respite center of Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, had all the ingredients of a good time.
Held at Drusilla Seafood restaurant, the party for clients and present and former caregivers was sponsored by the Junior League of Baton Rouge.
Paul Humes, a client of Charlie’s Place, joked as he came off the dance floor that when he was a young man he never had cared much for Elvis.
“All the girls would swoon just for that ugly guy,” he said.
But Judy Breaux, who went to Charlie’s Place regularly before health problems began to hold her back this spring, according to a family member, didn’t feel the same way.
“This is fun! I met ‘Elvis’ for the first time!” she said.
Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are heartbreaking conditions. Charlie’s Place tries to give its clients a boost and lift the load for their caregivers as well.
Housed in the Alzheimer’s Services building on North Boulevard, Charlie’s Place, with its own entrance on Steele Boulevard, is a day program designed for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia-related disorders, providing mental stimulation and social interaction for them.
It serves 39 people, who come two days a week, according to the center’s literature.
The center’s living, dining and kitchen areas are decorated like a comfortable home.
There are chances to enjoy conversations, play games and take part in sing-a-longs. Clients also help prepare hot meals for lunch.
A “quiet room” has a rocking chair, a twin bed and soft music for those who aren’t feeling well.
And outside is a lovely, enclosed “Memory Garden,” where clients can sit or walk or garden.
According to the Alzheimer’s Services website at http://www.brhope.com, there is a nominal fee for the program that has a staff/client ratio of 1 to 3.
All of the staff are certified as quality dementia care providers by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
For more information call (225) 334-7494 or 1-800-548-1211.
Charlie’s Place “gives the caregivers a needed break and the client a fun-filled day,” said Ed Picard, respite center coordinator.
For both parties, it’s a “quality of life” issue, said Dana Territo, director of Charlie’s Place.
The idea for Charlie’s Place came about through a “community needs assessment” survey that Alzheimer’s Services took of the families it served.
Families said they “needed a place that they could feel comfortable leaving their loved ones with dementia for a few hours a week,” according to a history of the center.
“Providing caregivers with the opportunity to manage personal needs such as catching up on rest without worrying about their loved one’s safety or well-being results in a better, less-stressed caregiver,” it said.
The respite center is named Charlie’s Place for three reasons: Charlie Valluzzo, Charlie Lamar and the late Charlie Spera, three local businessmen and benefactors who helped the center become a reality.
Charlie’s Place opened in October 2007. The center marked its fifth year through a number of activities over recent months, with the December party being a culminating event.
Marie Conway, who came to the party, regularly brought her late husband, Bill Conway, to Charlie’s Place after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was a place he enjoyed very much, she said.
To encourage her husband to give the center a try early on, she told him he could help other people there having the same type of memory problem.
Before her husband became ill, he was the type who was the “life of the party,” Conway said.
At Charlie’s Place, her husband “let down his guard” of self-consciousness about his condition, she said.
“He just loved it there,” Conway said.
Joanna Anselmo had brought her mother, Irene Rubben, to the ’50s dance celebration. Both of them were dressed in their best sock-hop style; Rubben was wearing a pink poodle skirt.
Rubben has been a regular at Charlie’s Place for more than a year and loves it, Anselmo said.
“She thinks she’s going to work or church,” Anselmo said. “Every morning I drop her off, and she says, ‘Have a good day!’ ’’
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