Ministries Expand Support for Caregivers and Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

2/27/2014

Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson, Memorial Drive UMC and First Methodist Angleton are on the growing list of TAC churches to provide caregivers a break while providing Alzheimer patients mental, physical, emotional and spiritual stimulation – and plenty of hugs.
 
Caregiver burnout is a growing need, particularly for those who care for loved ones who require round-the-clock patience and close supervision.  Taking time off from this demanding role is often next to impossible. That is where several UMC churches in the Brazosport area step in to provide a “Gathering Place” event that helps
caregiver and family members at the same time.
 
The Southern Brazoria County Gathering Place Interfaith Ministries was started in August, 2007.
 
The group searched for a way to help caregivers of family members with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.  These caregivers are badly in need of support to break the cycle of fatigue and frustration.
 
Gathering Place volunteers are committed to the concept that patients with Alzheimer's can experience joy through the last stages of the disease, and they are committed to creating those moments by providing stimulating activities and forming emotional connections with the persons served.
 
In January of 2008, First UMC, Angleton was added to the list of ministries called Gathering Places. Chapelwood UMC in Lake Jackson joined the resource list in September of 2011. Columbia UMC became part of this regional ministry when an abbreviated four-hour “Reunion” event was created.

 
“Our mission committee has many different areas that offer volunteer opportunities to the congregation and one of them is Alzheimer's related,” says Sherri Archer, Chapelwood Mission's chair. “During this time we provide our guests with mental, physical, emotional and spiritual stimulation through a variety of activities.” Adds Sherri, “Being the head of Outreach Ministries has helped me be more involved in missions, but being the Team leader for the Gathering Place has really touched me. This is the third year for our church to host these events, and most of the volunteers have had family members with Alzheimer’s and this is their way to give back to their loved one. For me it was my mother, so this touches all of us in a special way. Also, seeing the joy on their faces to interact with new people, and knowing their caregiver has had that time to rest and run errands gives us great pleasure.”
 
The group participates in exercises together, singing songs, making crafts and doing memory skill activities like bingo. Some events include devotionals, table talk, and lunch, and even seasonal activities such as a Flag Day parade.
 
To facilitate mission voluntarism, Chapelwood has a pledge form online that creates a commitment statement to the church. It reads: In grateful recognition that all my (our) time, treasure(s) and ability(ies) come from God I (we) gladly join with others in the support of Christ's church. Additionally, the volunteer WISH LIST on the website lists what is needed, the job description and contact person.
 
Chapelwood UMC, Lake Jackson was formed as a mission-oriented church and we encourage truly hands-on projects,” she says. More than 200 of the approximately 800 members are active in outreach activities beyond the Gathering Place. “Members find their niche and connect with each other on a Habitat construction site, the Guatemala Medical Mission trip, local food pantry, Special Olympics, our prison ministry, or local school reading buddies – to name a few.”
 
Additionally, retired nurse Nancy Rawls and husband Jim started an Alzheimer’s support group and respite care at Memorial Drive UMC at The Gate facility where senior adults often gather. Their events are open to the public on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 1pm.