Although it lacks a golf course, tennis courts or swimming pool, Marietta Murphy calls Charlie’s Place her father’s “country club.” But, unlike most clubs, its primary beneficiaries may be those who aren’t members.
Started in 2007 by Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, Charlie’s Place Activity and Respite Center offers weekday activities for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It gives caregivers a break from the round-the-clock stress of looking after their loved ones. On Tuesday, it celebrates its 10th anniversary with a reception at its North Boulevard location.
“When we first built it, that was our main goal, to give those caregivers a break,” said Dana Territo, director of services for Alzheimer’s Services. “I think the biggest impact I can describe to you was one of the clients on their first day here, the daughter drove up to pick her up, and we asked, ‘How was your day?’ She said, ‘I went to a movie. It’s the first movie I’ve been to in three years.’
“That really homes in on how these caregivers struggle. We call it the 36-hour day. They struggle at home caregiving for their loved ones, and they’re very isolated, so they don’t get to do the things we take for granted," she said. "It was such a testament to the success of this place for the caregivers.”
The need is such that in April, Alzheimer's Services opened Charlie's Place II, 1212 S. Purpera Road, Gonzales. That location operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Alzheimer's Services plans to add days as enrollment increases.
For Denise Moran, who moved from Atlanta to care for her 90-year-old mother, Myrtle, following a dementia diagnosis, Charlie’s Place gives her a chance to do the little things.
“I get a moment to walk around the lake. We’re right down the street from University Lake," she said. "Or I get a chance to just rest and not look at the monitor or worry about her. … This place is just a godsend.”
The idea for Charlie’s Place came after a community needs assessment in 2005-06 that indicated caregivers needed a place to take their loved ones so they could run errands or rest. The facility is named for three Charlies — Charlie Valluzzo, Charlie Lamar and the late Charlie Spera — whose financial contributions and leadership were instrumental in its creation.
Charlie’s Place is available to patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia or some other memory impairment. They must be able to eat, use the bathroom and walk on their own or assisted by a walker. They can come twice a week, and extra days are permitted in extenuating circumstances, Territo said.
The interior is designed like a large residential kitchen and living room. On any day, up to 15 patients are greeted on arrival in the morning and are brought to the kitchen for coffee and conversation. An exercise session, a mentally stimulating activity or entertainment follows, then lunch, a music program, afternoon activity and snack before their loved ones come to pick them up. Four staff members, plus volunteers, oversee everything.
But for Carlos, Marietta Murphy's 82-year-old dad, it's a "country club" that puts a smile on his face. His dementia was brought on because his heart operates at only 18 percent of normal capacity. He enjoys the friends he’s made at Charlie’s Place and sometimes brings doughnuts to share with them.
“Just seeing my father happy makes me happy,” Murphy said.
Charlie's Place Open House
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17
WHERE: Charlie's Place Activity and Respite Center, 3772 North Blvd.
INFORMATION: Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, alzbr.org