Since 1997, Ann McIntire has volunteered her time with different programs offered by CarePartners.
“My career was as a registered nurse, and when I retired in 1997 I was looking for a place where I could use my skills,” McIntire said.
Ms. McIntire was an in-home health care nurse, so volunteering with CarePartners seemed right up her alley. She had found out that her church, Grace Presbyterian, had an Alzheimer’s Care Team™ which assisted care partners (clients) in a variety of ways, including taking them to the grocery store, a doctor’s appointment, or just helping them at home.
She was thrilled to volunteer her time and skills with this group that assists with helping people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Three years later, McIntire helped establish a Gathering Place at Grace Presbyterian and has been in charge ever since. The Gathering Place is an interactive program for people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Family caregivers can drop off their loved one at the church for three and a half hours.
“It’s an opportunity for the caregiver to go and do something for themselves,” McIntire said.
Grace Presbyterian’s Gathering Place takes place on the fourth Thursday of every month from 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. During that time, they also hold Common Ground, a support group for caregivers.
“It’s a totally rewarding and fun experience; to have fun with the folks who usually don’t do anything at home but watch T.V.,” McIntire said.
The Gathering Place begins with a short meet and greet, sharing light stories or jokes before beginning a craft.
Grace Presbyterian also has a school, so during craft time they bring in the 2nd graders to participate with the care partners (clients). McIntire said it’s a win-win for both the students and the care partner (client). “It’s a learning experience for that age to be with someone who is their grandparent’s age,” McIntire said. “Their teachers teach them how to ask them questions and the care partners (clients) love having the children talk to them.”
People living with dementia or Alzheimer’s who participate in the Gathering Place also get to do a little exercise, have a hot lunch, and enjoy some music. McIntire said she’s noticed that people don’t seem to lose their memory of music, so that portion of the day always goes well. Then they finish up the day playing bingo.
Volunteering brings such joy into McIntire’s life; it also inspired her husband to begin volunteering after he retired. At first, her husband came to help with the sound machine, but now he’s just as involved with the care partners (clients) and enjoys participating just as much as his wife.
“I’ve made some good friendships with other volunteers. I’ve had opportunities to get closer to a client’s family,” Ann McIntire said. “There are so many opportunities that go beyond what we do on that one day a month.”