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Titan Tuesdays: An Interview with Marylynne Henry of Friends Place Adult Day Services

There is a myth about adult day centers. Typically they are thought to simply provide lunch, a game or two and possibly transportation.  Friends Place Adult Day Services in DeSoto, Texas completely blows that myth out the water.  Friends Place provides a welcoming and social environment full of activities throughout the day, with care specific to those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.  And because their staff is specially trained to work with those with dementia, caregivers can feel secure knowing their loved one will receive the attention they need. No, this is not a sales ad for Friends Place. I just happen to really believe in their mission and what they do there. We benefit greatly from their monthly caregiver support group, and my grandmother enjoys getting out of the house and socializing with the other members.


This week’s Titan Tuesday features Marylynne Henry. Marylynne is the owner of Friends Place DeSoto. I will let her provide more insight into her story and this unique environment.


Q. Please share the story behind you, your family and your journey to owning Friends Place.

My husband Rod and I have been married for 40 years.  We have two grown children: son, Ryan, and daughter, Diane. We have lived in DeSoto and Ovilla for our entire marriage.  Rod was a Carpenter and I was a Software Engineer for many years.  Rod sustained a brain injury in 2007 which resulted in permanent memory loss. In caring for him, I learned a lot about what it is like to be thrown into caregiving when you are trying to maintain a job and family.  It was during this time that I found Friends Place, Richardson where I could take Rod while I worked. It was a godsend to me to have a place for Rod to go during the day and it wasn’t anything like the other places I had visited.  It was while he was attending there that I was presented the opportunity to open a Friends Place in DeSoto.  The rest is history!


Q. Why is it important for you to provide these services to the community?

It’s important to me to be able to offer another option to those caregivers that need daytime care. As a caregiver myself, I know how expensive both in-home care and permanent long-term care can be.  There has to be an alternative and Friends Place is that alternative.


 Q. What does a typical day at Friends Place look like?

We call our clients ‘members’ because they are members of the Friends Place Activity Center. Mornings are welcoming, while everyone gets their first cup of coffee and breakfast. People filter in all morning, but the majority of members arrive between 8 and 10. We talk about current events, have comic relief, and do some deep breathing to get our brains moving. We sit out on the back porch and enjoy nature, when the weather permits.  At 10 the pace picks up. You will find our early-stage group in the front conference room, having a discussion about history, learning sign-language or Spanish, or doing some other challenging activity.  There will be other groups in other areas, engaging with the activity leader and each other.  There may be someone doing puzzles in the dining room. Around 11:30, we join together for some exercise and singing. Then 12:30 is lunchtime, where we serve lunch in the dining room.  In the afternoon, we may have an entertainer come in, have a spiritual study or of course, play Bingo. The key point is that there are always several different activities going on and members can choose where to join in.  We do way too many different things to list them all here!


Q. In what way does Friends Place offer support for caregivers?

We don’t just enroll the member, but their families as well. Besides caring for their loved one, we have a full room of resource materials. This includes information on other services available in the area. We offer Alzheimer’s Association support groups twice a month. This is a great place for caregivers to connect with each other and hear new ideas.  One of these meetings is always an outside speaker on a variety of topics. Our staff, including our nurses, is always available to answer questions, brainstorm on how to handle behaviors, and just to listen. We throw great parties for the families and give them a chance to just enjoy their loved one in a fun environment.


Q. What makes Friends Place different from other adult day centers?

Friends Place is a warm, welcoming place.  It’s a place where ‘everybody knows your name’.  Members are comfortable with us and families know that we get to know their loved ones’ preferences and tailor things to them. Even though we are taking care of our members, we are also enjoying the activities with them. Most times you can’t tell the difference between who is a staff person and who is a member.  Our staff is not only caring and committed, but they are also trained specifically on how to relate to those with dementia.  Our main goal is to engage every member at their level and their preferences. And our staff does that very well.  They truly enjoy spending time with our members, and love to laugh and enjoy time with them.  Since we specialize in dementia care, we can tailor our programs to that very specific population.  We are also contracted with the North Texas Veterans Administration. What this means is that we provide quality care for veterans at little or no out-of-pocket cost to the veteran. Friends Place is the first and only dementia-specific adult day services in Dallas County with a VA contract.


Q. What is a common misconception about adult day centers?

I think many people think an adult day center is a place where adults with all types of different disabilities go to be taken care of for the day. I think the main misconception is that while they are there, they sit and watch TV all day, with maybe one or two activities thrown in. I love it when I’m giving a tour of Friends Place and, as the prospective family member walks through the building, their face softens into a smile and they say “This is not at all what I expected!”  What we do at Friends Place is truly something you have to see to understand.


 Q. As a caregiver yourself, what do you do to stay inspired and take care of yourself?

I am inspired by other caregivers. I get told all the time “I don’t know how you do it.”  Well, I see other caregivers in different situations and I think “I don’t know how they do it.”  The fact is that each of our situations is similar, yet different. We all have our own specific challenges, both emotional and physical. But when you are a dedicated caregiver, you find the strength you need for your loved one.  I am surrounded by dedicated caregivers every day and that keeps me going. I think the main thing that I found out early on is that I need to ask for help. At first I thought I was the only one who could care for my husband. But as I began to wear myself completely out, I learned that I can’t do it alone. As they say, “it takes a village”. I began to ask family and friends, and to look for professional caregivers to help me through. I needed downtime and time away from caregiving. Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not something that happens and then are over. It lasts for years and years.  If I don’t take care of myself and get help and do ‘normal’ things, then I am not going to be around for the long haul. I have to make decisions that sometimes my husband may not agree with — like he is going to get up in the morning and go to Friends Place when he would rather stay home in the recliner – so that I can still get things done that I need to do.


Q. What advice do you have for caregivers?

Accept your loved one where they are. Choose your battles – does it really matter if they sleep in their clothes instead of changing into pajamas?  And above all, don’t miss those moments of joy that happen in the here and now because you are too worried about what is going to happen tomorrow.


 Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am truly blessed to be able to be in this business and provide much needed support for caregivers.  I want to thank you, Veronica, for being dedicated to promoting awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and giving me the opportunity to help you with that.


________________________________________

Thanks so much Marylynne!

Click here to visit the Friends Place Adult Day Services DeSoto website and learn more about their services.


I  recommend looking into adult day services in your area. They can provide an economic solution for caregivers who work full-time or those who just need short-term respite care. An adult day center can fill the need for social interaction and help avoid the need for long-term care institutions for as long as possible.


Has your loved one attended an adult day center? Have you found their services useful? Why or why not? Share your comments below.

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