Memory Makers expands in Oxford

By Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Memory Makers, a dementia respite program now in its fourth year, has moved up the sidewalk and into larger facilities.

Founded in 2010 by Dianne and Bill Arnold, the program began in borrowed space at First Presbyterian Church for a few months before moving to Heritage Drive. Its new facility has essentially doubled its space.

“We run a program for people who have memory loss like Alzheimer’s. Here, people make friends and do all kinds of things – crossword puzzles, exercising, flower arranging – that stretch the brain and challenge the body and keep us healthier,” said Emily Fox, assistant program manager.

“In this new space for the first time we have a quiet room, where someone who’s tired or having a hard time can come and just relax in a recliner,” she said. “We have a separate crafts room and a big kitchen where you can hang out like in the old days.”

The division of space makes entry and exit less distracting and provides for personalized care.

“In our previous location we had just one big room, and when we needed to talk to just one person it was challenging, especially for people who are hard of hearing. Here we can go into a separate room and talk.”

Carol Van Bisen is one of many volunteers who make Memory Makers happen.

“My husband was a stroke victim, and I would have loved to have a place like this for him,” she said. “I come as thanksgiving for its being here for people like my husband. Plus, it makes me happy. It’s a joyful place.”

While Memory Makers is a four-hour party for its participants and volunteers, its other vital role is giving caregivers a break from their often overwhelming responsibilities.

Maureen Liberto-Sura brought her husband, Stephen, to Memory Makers for the first time on Wednesday.

“I just had four hours by myself. I had my nails done, and I went to the grocery store. It’s been wonderful,” she said. “We live here and in Montreal; we’ve been in Oxford since Friday, and this is the first time I’ve had any time to myself.”

Liberto-Sura, a retired journalism professor, said her husband, a retired engineer, was diagnosed with dementia about a year-and-a-half ago.

“We’re so fortunate to have this,” she said. “I know most of these people, and I know how caring they are. I know he’s not going to go out the front door.”

For more information or to donate, visit www.memorymakers.org.

errol.castens@journalinc.com