Gardening, music therapy, games and exercise were offered to Ascension Parish Alzheimer’s patients during an open house Saturday at Charlie’s Place II: The Jo Lamar Activity and Respite Center in Gonzales.

An influx of Alzheimer’s patients and local donations in Ascension Parish have helped Charlie’s Place increase its service offerings from one to three days a week.

“The open house is a chance for us to show the community we are a vital resource for the patients and their caregivers,” said Julie Knight, director of respite and training at Charlie’s Place.

“The caregiver always thinks, ‘I’ve got to take care of Mom, I’ve got to take care of Dad’ and while they are here with us, their caregiver has time to do what they need to do,” Knight said. “Caregiver burnout is a real thing and we offer a unique program that gives their loved ones a great experience.”

Area organizations have also contributed to Charlie’s Place’s expansion. The East Ascension Rotary Club recently donated $20,000 to the organization.

“Because of their donation we will be able to give out nine scholarships to use at Charlie’s Place,” said Barbara Auten, executive director of Charlie’s Place. “Each scholarship allows the clients to attend a weekly visit for a year.

“We started here nearly two years ago with being open to clients for only one day a week,” Auten said. “Now we are open three days a week with hopes of being open five days a week. Clients receive socialization while also learning through a variety of activities.”

Ed Picard, of Baton Rouge, is a participant at Charlie’s Place in Baton Rouge, which is also a part of the Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area.

“This is a great place for caregivers to bring their loved ones and know they will enjoy their time here,” Picard said. “They can create a lot of friendships here. It can be difficult at first for people to make friends, but they are able to make a lot of friends here.”

Claire LeBlanc, respite coordinator for the Gonzales Charlie’s Place, said the clients most enjoy programs and activities with themes.

“We recently had a cruise theme in which we prepared food they would have on a cruise,” LeBlanc said. “We had a baseball theme that included various activities around baseball.”

LeBlanc, who has been in the caregiving industry for 12 years, said the goal of Charlie’s Place is to give clients the feeling of a home environment.

“It’s a feeling of being around their friends and people they are comfortable with,” LeBlanc said. “Engaging them is the key.”

Recent themed activity days included National Pie Day, Walt Disney Day, Something on A Stick Day and National Poetry Day.

Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area is a local nonprofit organization that provides education and support programs to those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in 10 parishes surrounding the greater Baton Rouge area, including Ascension.

For information about Charlie’s Place or scholarship opportunities, visit alzbr.org or call (225) 334-7494.