If you know anyone suffering with either dementia or Alzheimer’s, visit the H.E.A.R.T.S. program at Modena’s United Methodist Church.
H.E.A.R.T.S. stands for Hope. Encouragement. Activities. Respite. Trust. Support. It’s more than an adult daycare center, but a place for people with dementia to enjoy being with each other. Its official sponsor is the Ministry of the United Methodist Church in Modena.
Rev. Eileen Daunt started the program not too long after her husband was diagnosed with dementia in June 2018. She started reading various books to understand more about dementia, and how to provide care for anyone living with the disease. One of the books she was inspired by was “Reclaiming Joy Together” by Daphne Johnson.
For Eileen, this was a dream project that was thought of in July 2020 and became a reality in October 2022. She felt that her new purpose was to help others with dementia by giving them a space to be themselves and socialize.
“…I knew it was a wild dream and hope. But God laid it on my heart to have a facility someplace in the town of Plattekill… and provide what we’re currently doing now.”
But it wasn’t just one place Eileen thought of establishing the program, it was multiple. This included Ulster, Sullivan and Orange County. Some people in Connecticut were also inspired by her to start their own H.E.A.R.T.S. program.
Eileen’s husband also goes to the program and enjoys participating in it. Her children have noticed a positive change in their father’s mood since attending the program. He now does hobbies that he hasn’t done since he was a kid like building plastic model vehicles.
H.E.A.R.T.S.’ goal is to help older adults with dementia meet their social, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. H.E.A.R.T.S.’ provides various activities for brain stimulation and freedom for adults with dementia to express themselves.
One of the caregivers, Karen Seyfert, notices the positive responses from the adults with dementia in the program. “They’re not smiling for me. They’re smiling because they’re happy. And dementia is a progressive illness. All we can do is make it better for them, their quality of life and self-respect as they go on” said Seyfert.
Statistics the H.E.A.R.T.S.’ program shares (from the Alzheimer’s Association) that 6 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer disease, and 11 million Americans are providing unpaid care for people with dementia.
According to MayoClinic.org, dementia has mild to severe symptoms with memory loss and social abilities that impact a person’s day-to-day life. The cause of dementia is either due to loss or damaged nerve cells that connect to the brain.
Dementia can also cause psychological side effects such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, hallucinations and inappropriate behavior. “When a person has dementia, they feel alone because each person is different with the disease” Daunt explains.
While there isn’t a way to cure dementia, there are ways to prevent symptoms from becoming severe. This includes healthy choices such as diet, exercise, and socializing with others. SCIE.org.uk notes that creative activities such as music, painting, dancing and crafts can provide stimulation to the brain.
Barbara Terpening, Treasurer of H.E.A.R.T.S., believes this program will benefit the people of Southern Ulster County.
“I think it’s a great program and we’re really hoping to build it up in this area…I have people tell me there’s a need for it. We just have to get the information out there to let people know we have it” Terpening explains.
Most of the caregivers are impacted in some way by people living with dementia. Joseph Watson shared that this program would’ve helped his uncle when he was going through Alzheimer’s “…The only one he could recognize was my mother…. If he had this program he might be in a much different position,” said Watson.
It shows that dementia is a journey that both the person with the disease and the caregivers go through together.
Southern Ulster residents can participate as care givers, providing financial support to the program, cooking food, providing music, becoming an exercise instructor, and praying for the community.
You can contact H.E.A.R.T.S. through their email (HEARTS@nyac-umc.com), Facebook page, and phone number (845-287-9459) to participate. The Memorial United Methodist Church in Modena has their meetings weekly on Friday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The program is also available at United Methodist Church in Ellenville from Mondays 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.