Charlie's Place offers unique respite care services for Alzheimer's patients

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POSTED: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 4:00am

UPDATED: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 4:04am

Baton Rouge has the only place in Louisiana that gives a break to people who care for loved ones with Alzheimer's. Now it is trying to prove what many people already believe--that its style of respite care works--so it can help even more patients.

Charlie's Place is run by Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area

"It wants you to do things, you know, (makes) you want to do things," said Rudy Bourgeois, a patient who visits Charlie's Place once a week. "You know, if you don't... you can't sleep all the time, you gotta be active!"

Caretakers can drop off patients once or twice a week for a six-hour day of structured programming geared toward people with Alzheimer's or dementia. It gives them a place to go, to keep moving, thinking, laughing, and making friends.

"Well, they were not, but they are now," Bourgeois said. "It's the same group that's there, and so we just intermingle, it's just... [they] make you feel wanted."

Charlie's Place was launched six years after a study conducted by three board members of Alzheimer's Services named Charlie. In 2008, it was named National Adult Day Center of the Year by the National Adult Day Services Association.

"We're the only social model respite center in Louisiana, and we think the Gulf Coast area," claimed Dana Territo, Director of Services for Alzheimer's Services. "We have three times won the Excellence in Dementia Care Program of Distinction from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. So we're proud of, very proud of this for our community."

There are 20,000 people living with Alzheimer's Disease in the greater Baton Rouge area. Not all of them could visit Charlie's Place.

"The philosophy of Charlie's Place, and the criteria is, they have to walk on their own--be ambulatory--go to the bathroom on their own, and eat on their own," Territo explained. "So it is suited for mild to moderate and high-functioning individuals with Alzheimer's."

Now a researcher from LSU is trying to prove just how effective Charlie's Place is in fighting Alzheimer's. With numbers to back up their ideas, Alzheimer's Services can apply for bigger grants from national foundations, giving it a more reliable funding stream and allowing it to set up other Charlie's Place locations in the 10 parishes they serve.

"We are a social people, all of us," Territo mentioned, "so even if you have Alzheimer's, you still want to remain in that social, and be in that circle of mobility."

Charlie's Place is run by a full-time staff, along with volunteers. It has partnerships with several local colleges that have a service learning component to their education, but anyone can give their time.

Respite care is about both the patients and their families, and Charlie's Place has a positive effect on both.

"Caregiving is so stressful," Territo mentioned. "And 80 percent of the care of Alzheimer's patients is provided in the home, so the caregivers want to keep them at home as long as possible. Charlie's Place offers them an avenue for respite care, for them to take that break and to keep their loved one at home."

But Bourgeois and the other frequent visitors say the atmosphere at Charlie's Place, "just makes you feel, 'I'm at home, you know?'"

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