The Valdosta Daily Times
Every 68 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Many families have had to cope with watching a loved one fall into a downward spiral of dementia. It can be difficult for family members to take care of someone in need. A local organization called Alzheimer’s Caregiver Time Out, also known as ACTO, is a free respite care service in Valdosta.
ACTO is open three days a week to provide caregivers with some free time while also allowing clients to spend time with other people their age going through the same ordeals. Every client is in different stages of memory loss and are dealt with according to their needs.
About one-third of ACTO’s expenses are funded by United Way and their location, located at 2106 Slater Street, is provided by Park Avenue United Methodist Church.
The generosity of others is what keeps a place like ACTO up and running. While monetary donations are always accepted, item donations are also in great demand, including plates, forks, spoons, bowls, toilet tissue, napkins, cleaning supplies, baby wipes, canned goods, meats, coffee, creamer, sugar, tea, etc.
One of the ways ACTO is able to provide services is through fundraisers. Last year, the organization held a fundraiser with an Elvis Tribute Artist from South Carolina. The event was such a hit that they were able to run their program for many months. This year they have brought the artist, Austin Irby, back for another performance. “Elvis is in the Building” will be held at the Valdosta Mathis City Auditorium on March 29. The show will run from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. A meal will also be served on site from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. with the purchase of a $10 meal ticket. The meal will be a smoked chicken dinner with three sides, dessert, and tea provided by Smokin’ Pig and Pammy Cakes. All proceeds benefit ACTO. These tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets can be bought on site at Pammy Cakes or at the ACTO office or by phone at (229) 245-9094, (229) 563-2435 or (229) 251-4361.
ACTO strives to provide free, cost effective respite services to families with members suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of memory impairment and the frail elderly, to reduce clients sense of isolation and maximum their existing intellectual capacity by engaging in social and recreational activities, to provide hot meals every day for each client, to host group support meetings that enable caregivers to share knowledge, advice, experiences and concerns. Group support meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Langdale Place Chapel. Birthday parties are also held for each client.
While clients are at ACTO, caregivers have time to go run errands or even get some much needed sleep while volunteers and workers at ACTO care for their loved one. The care of these clients is no easy task, but a rewarding one to all those involved.
Current program director Ann Walker-Smith describes it as “the most rewarding job yet also the hardest.”
Days spent with these clients are spent playing games, enjoying a meal, or belting out southern gospel songs on devoted volunteer Charles Roberts’ karaoke machine. Smith explains that many of these patients may not even remember eating their lunch, but that all their faces light up when they hear the southern gospel songs that filled their youth.
“One of our clients, out of the blue, started patting on the table a tune to an old hymn. Suddenly, the words to ‘Amazing Grace’ came flowing out of her mouth.” says Smith. “She was amazing. I started to cry.”
ACTO is also a 501(c)3 organization, which means they are recognized by the IRS as a non-profit organization. Any money or goods donated to the organization are tax deductible and a letter is provided to the giver to use for their tax purposes. To send donations, checks can be made out to ACTO and mailed to ACTO 2106 Slater Street, Valdosta, 31602.