At the risk of people thinking that I only write when something unfortunate happens, I wanted to assure you (and myself) that there are plenty of good things that happen every day. I promise!
Last week, my new friend, Valerie, asked me to speak to a group of new volunteers for Encore. Encore is the adult respite program at Canterbury United Methodist Church. This is my parents’ church and the church I grew up in and got married in! I was thrilled to tell this group about the wonderful benefits of Encore, but knowing that this is a very emotional subject for me, I decided to write it down. I become a total cry baby when I talk about dementia and my dad, so I knew that notes would be very handy. I was right!
Anyway, I wanted to share my comments with you because I want you to know what a blessing Encore is to my dad and I think that some of you might be interested in volunteering your time to this wonderful ministry. Should you decide that you want to share your love and your time with people like my Dad, please reach out to me and I will put you in touch with some awesome people at Canterbury!
First I want to thank each of you for being here today. Without you my Dad would be at home seven days a week. Without the volunteers at Encore my Dad would continue to feel isolated from his peers and useless to his wife. Without Encore my dad would not have “news” to share with my mom. And without you and Encore, one day would simply roll into the next day and to the next day and to the next day.
I am very emotional about Encore because my Dad is my hero and I am not used to the roles being reversed. Eighty percent of the time, my dad is my dad and nothing has changed. The other twenty percent of the time it is very difficult to be around my dad. It is hard to keep up the conversation and remember what tale we are spinning to settle him down.
Encore has allowed my dad to be in a familiar surrounding. His church. Encore has allowed my mom, who is confined to a wheelchair, to attend a lunch group that she once attended weekly. She went to eat with her “lunch bunch” a few weeks ago for the first time in over a year. She told me that one day she plans to go to the Target by Brookwood mall and go down every isle and see everything in the store! You see she did not receive her motorized chair until one week after my dad was diagnosed.
We thought it was going to be difficult to get Dad to attend Encore. We had to spin another tale about Encore being a new group for his generation of church members. Now he looks forward to coming to Encore. He loves BINGO and darts and he even helps with art projects. He thinks he is helping you . . . that is part of our tall tale . . . but you are the sunshine in his day.
He is calmer when he has attended Encore. He sleeps through the night and he has news to share with my mom. Dad was always telling me he wanted to be useful and Encore seems to be making him feel useful again.
I am so glad you are here today. I hope you will get the opportunity to meet my dad if you don’t already know him. His name is Vann Henagan and he is a retired banker, father of two, grandfather of five and husband to Ann for over 50 years. He is awesome and he has dementia.
As I learned in the support group that I attend with my mom here at Canterbury: Do not get caught up looking at the horrible disease that these people have or you will miss the wonderful part of them that is still alive and well.
Thank you for giving Encore your time and these participants your love. What you give will come back to you ten fold.