FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2003
CONTACT: Carol Anderson
Eastern Michigan University model
respite care project
finds unique, yet simple, ways to help others in community
YPSILANTI Its as if Mattie and Joseph Wright of Canton
had won a contest.
People came weekly with bags of their favorite foods and made a hot, three-course
meal. The visitors also set the table, brought taped music and cleaned up after
But Joseph, 83, who has dementia, and his 79-year-old wife, Mattie, didnt
win any contest. The service was provided by Eastern Michigan University students
as part of the Universitys Respite Care Project.
Eastern Michigan University students Stacy Wallace, of Ann Arbor, and Yi-Min
Cheng, of Ypsilanti are just two of more than 90 students in the program who
visit people in the community who need assistance.
The program, which is considered a model for other universities in the state,
began with a grant in 2001. And while the grant was recently terminated due
to the states budget crunch, Anne Robinson, director of EMUs Alzheimers
Education Program, said the project would move forward.
The project will continue in a modified way, said Robinson. EMU
has a strong commitment to service families. There is no doubt in my mind that
the project is continuing.
With the state grant, EMU created a new approach to home care where the emphasis
is to design meaningful experiences for people with dementia, said Lisa Gray,
project co-director of the Respite Project at EMU.
The Universitys in-home respite project, a service of EMUs Alzheimers Education Program, provides a break for many people -- those with dementia or severe memory loss, their caretakers and their families. Respite care is traditionally custodial, performing activities of daily living such as personal care.
The EMU project provides families with home visits and focuses on the remaining
abilities the person has rather than on what they cant do, said Gray.
Since June 2001, 25 families in Washtenaw, Oakland, Wayne, Lenawee and Livingston counties have been helped by the project.
Juniors, seniors and graduate students from gerontology, dietetics, occupational
therapy or nursing receive special training on dementia before going into the
home. They collect information on the persons hobbies, past jobs and medical
history before designing an activity plan for their weekly, three-to-four hour
Student and family activities include gardening, going to a restaurant, or
attending a symphony or concert. One person with dementia had been interested
in horses, so the student brought in a saddle and other equipment to his home
for the two of them to clean.
Most families are impressed that students are interested in them and
shocked as to what students can do with a patient, said Gray.
Wallace and Cheng developed a plan for Joseph to help with the meals. Joseph
washed potatoes, stirred food and helped set the table. They discovered that
he could not distinguish between actual food on the table and the printed flowers
on a tablecloth, so they changed to a plain table covering.
Joe is not aware of everything thats happening around him, but
he understands conversation and enjoys the familiar surroundings, said
He first exhibited signs of dementia, said his wife, when he was a church treasurer
and was making mistakes on the financial records. Later, as a repairman, he
began getting lost on familiar routes.
Growing up in Alabama on a 40-acre farm provided many memories for Joseph.
In 1937, he met George Washington Carver, inventor of peanut butter and many
other peanut products. Today, Joseph has a hard time remembering many things
without help from Mattie.
Both Mattie and the students have exchanged recipes. Mattie has traded several
of her southern recipes for the students secret to good salmon.
I learned a lot from them (the Wrights), said Wallace You
see many people with dementia, but until you spend some quality time with someone,
you dont truly understand it (the disease).
The students also have gained insights into African-American culture, life
in post-World War II Detroit, Matties make-do homemaking skills and her
love of poetry.
I think I made a difference in their lives, said Wallace. Not
in any earth-shattering way, but I think I did make their life happier.