Organization helps 200 per month
The Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County faced challenges this year as more community members inquired about services.
"More people know about our agency. Therefore, more people know to seek us out," said Jamie Huff, community relations coordinator with the nonprofit agency.
She attributed the increase not only to more people finding out about services, but also to an increased number of people being diagnosed with dementia. So far in 2012, the Alzheimer's Alliance has assisted 594 new clients and 902 continuing clients. It helps an average of 200 people each month.
"The numbers are staggering. It's a huge issue, so there's a dual reason that we are busier, and it will continue. We've just begun working with Baby Boomers, and there's 20 years worth of Baby Boomers," Ms. Huff said.
The Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County is a local autonomous nonprofit agency providing resources and support for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It also supports the professionals and family members who care for them, Ms. Huff said. It is not affiliated with a national organization, and residents outside Smith County can access its services. Among those services are personal consultations with a social worker, free memory screenings by appointment, Wonderful Wednesdays Day Club, referrals and a tracking program called Project Lifesaver.
The alliance is funded through donations from businesses and individuals and receives a small grant from the Area Agency on Aging.
Going into 2013, it is in great need of volunteers.
Some people think working with a person with dementia is scary, Ms. Huff said, but it is rewarding, and the agency provides great training.
One place to volunteer is at Day Club, which meets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays. The program, which averages about 15 participants, is designed to give caregivers time away and allow attendees to socialize and do activities together. Earlier this month at Day Club, attendees played instruments, danced and sang along to Christmas music.
"Most of the folks here live at home, and that's the main reason we have the program -- to give family caregivers a break -- but also research has proven that those who have dementia, if they are involved socially and cognitively, they can live at home longer because it helps them have a better day," Ms. Huff said.
The Alzheimer's Alliance would like to offer Day Club more days per week and get its own Alzheimer's day center.
However, that's not a reality, and it takes funding and more staff, Ms. Huff said.
"It's just a huge need in our community. We are the only ones in the county that we know of offering a non-senior care facility-based respite care option for those with dementia," she said.
Ms. Huff said volunteers also are needed to go to the person's home or facility and change the battery in their tracking device. Additionally, the agency offers free training for dementia care and always is looking for professionals to share their skills.
"I think the main challenge is the need for services is growing faster than our funding, so there is a great need for financial support so that we can continue to grow to meet the need because if you don't know somebody with Alzheimer's now, you will -- guaranteed," Ms. Huff said.
Those who would like to volunteer can call Ms. Huff at 903-509-8323. She said they always are looking for skilled and passionate people.
There is a short application process, which includes a background check and a volunteer interview.
The alliance also offers training for various positions such as office work, public speaking and Day Club.
For more information on the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County, visit www.alzalliance.org