SENIOR LIFESTYLES – OPINION: Can we talk?

“What do you do for a livin’? What does your husband do for a livin’?”

I am asked these questions several times each day. He forgets that he just asked a couple of minutes ago and he just wants to start a conversation.

Sandra Nance

At home, he does not have anyone other than his wife to talk to and she gets tired of hearing the same questions over and over.

She is patient, but it is difficult, as a caregiver, to entertain the same conversations continuously with someone who has changed so dramatically due to dementia. He is not the same man that she met and fell in love with 40-plus years ago.

She takes great care of him. He will tell you that, but we all need a break sometimes. We all need time to take care of ourselves. Family caregivers especially need time away from their loved one to devote to selfcare so that they can come back refreshed and continue providing the best care possible.

That’s what I do for a livin’!

I am the director of CARE Café, a non-profit organization that provides respite care to caregivers of senior loved ones.

What does the word respite mean?

It is a brief period of rest or relief from something that is difficult. Each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., a group of 12 participants, two volunteers and I meet with the goal of having fun and giving caregivers in our community some time away from their usual daily duties. We hope to open on Wednesdays when we get more volunteers.

We meet at the Taylor House Community Center in west Albemarle. It is a beautifully renovated historic home that served as the nurses’ quarters for the Yadkin Hospital in years past.

It is a bright and comfortable setting for our group. Each morning, we welcome our friends with a snack and coffee or hot chocolate, devotions and exercise. We serve a hot nutritious meal at noon from the Taylor House chefs.

The other activities vary each day. We enjoy Bible studies, music, trivia, games, crafts, educational classes and fitness activities. We are blessed to have brilliant and talented volunteers who share their talents and expertise with us. We are also blessed to be governed by a group of local citizens on our board of directors who genuinely care about reaching our goals and making a difference in the community. The greatest benefit for the participants is the socialization that this group provides. Social isolation is a serious issue for seniors who find themselves unable to get out and do the things that once kept them active and vibrant. Our goal is to show each person that they are still needed and that they still have a purpose.

I have been the director of CARE Café since it first opened in 2010. I remember the first day we met with one participant and one volunteer. I had several activities planned to keep us busy all day.

Dick Mills, our first participant, said, “Can’t we just sit down and talk?”

The crafts waited for another day, and we sat down and talked. The older generation has so much wisdom and love to share. They just need someone to sit down and listen. They need encouragement, respect and love in return.
Each participant and volunteer since Mr. Mills have made their own mark on the program.

I have seen it evolve over the years. In the first years, we served mostly the generation who were affected by the Great Depression and World War II. We still have a few of those, but most participants are of the next generation. I now get to learn from those who fought in Vietnam and worked hard to provide for their family during the 1960s and 1970s.

As the group has changed over the past 13 years, one thing has remained constant. That is the abundance of brotherly love and the fellowship between group members. It is humbling to watch them as they support each other during difficult times and celebrate victories together.

How do I answer the question, “What do you do for a livin’?”

I get to hang out with you, and I laugh every day!

Sandra Nance is director of the CARE Café in Albemarle.