Only a caregiver in charge of a loved one with Alzheimer’s can know what it means to get some alone time. Just to steal a moment for a nap or for lunch with a friend is a precious commodity.

Thanks to a North Charleston church and a partnership with the folks from Respite Care, that opportunity is now available for people who live near Park Circle.

More than a year ago, Pastor Wendy Jacoby-Hudson felt her congregation at North Charleston United Methodist needed more ministry for older adults. One of her own congregants spoke of a lack of places in the North Area that helped with Alzheimer’s patients.

Pastor Wendy started talking with Respite Care Director Laura Stefanelli.

Though there were three such locations in the county, there was nothing in North Charleston.

Three months ago, the newest location became the fellowship hall at North Charleston United Methodist.

Beatles and Benny Goodman

On Thursdays, a caregiver can bring a participant (they’re not called patients) to the church where they can stay for almost four hours.

Trained volunteers then care for them in an activity-based program.

There’s a social half-hour that involves coffee and pastries with discussion of current events.

Crafts also are introduced along with physical activity that might involve chair yoga.

There’s lunch and often interaction with some of the children in the day school.

Recently, both the kids and their adopted grandparents made Christmas decorations together.

The participants at the moment range in age from 49 to 94. Music also is a constant. The selections range from The Beatles to Benny Goodman.

Pastor Wendy calls the program “fantastic.” There was no push-back from the congregation and it’s provided a chance for some younger retirees in her congregation to “give back.”

One such volunteer, 89-year-old Stella McClintock, considers it the highlight of her week.

While this church does not average quite as many worshippers in its pews on Sunday as it once did, the church is obviously figuring out a path to offer assistance to a community that goes beyond the customary ways to praise.

The staff at Respite Care appreciates a church that’s willing to open its doors to its community.

One ongoing frustration about Alzheimer’s is that there’s still no cure.

Both the church and the organization are joining hands to help people because they need some-thing now.

Connecting

It appears all the parties in this endeavor are benefiting.

It’s the caregiver, though, that probably appreciates this four-hour break each week the most.

Being in charge and responsible for a person with Alzheimer’s is exhausting. The day seems to have no end.

The demands and needs of a loved one are constant and yet, there’s a real possibility he or she won’t even remember what happened just a day ago.

There’s no price that can be attached to that four-hour break each week.

Even if the caregiver decides not to do anything during that down time, that, too, is a blessing.

If, in fact, it’s more blessed to give than receive, it appears the folks at North Charleston United Methodist have figured out a way to do both.

Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or wpeper@postandcourier.com.