VOLUNTEER PROFILE: Teresa Renner
Photos by Sarah Marcella: left, Teresa Renner; middle, Teresa with Lorrie; below, Teresa with another client.
"I want to tell you about Lorrie, a precious lady. When I walk in to greet her in the morning I am struck by her special smile and sweet demeanor. She may take some time to respond to me, but as I rub her shoulders and grab her hand – she cannot verbally communicate – I see her acknowledge my presence by the warmth in her kind blue eyes. Thus begins our morning as we share a little hot chocolate and perhaps a cookie. There is a puzzle on the table, and although she is unable to work it, she seems to enjoy seeing me put a piece in the right place.
It is about 10:30 A.M. and it is time for the music. We have many talented volunteer vocalists, pianists, guitarists, and even an auto harpist to entertain us. Lorrie has a difficult time responding to vocal directions, so I guide her in a slow, deliberate, and respectful manner to a standing position for the short walk to the other side of the room. I take her hands to lead her in the direction of her chair in the music center. Some days it is more difficult than others, but I love it when she smiles as we get seated in our “reserved seats.”
Lorrie is adorable when she notices a piece of jewelry that she likes. She will touch it and smile or even grab my cheek. She will do her best to communicate the compliment and I always let her know I am flattered. It is very touching and I can barely hold back the tears; the lady of yesteryear is as visible as her smile. The music begins. Some days she seems to dance with the light heartedness of a child; on others, she seems content to tap her hands and feet and just listen.
Now it is time for lunch. Once again we navigate to the lunch table. Lorrie can feed herself and she loves to eat. It is great to watch her enjoy her lunch. She is happy. We then look to the afternoon of more music, crafts or games. We have the same challenge of navigating from the lunch table to the afternoon activities. She sometimes struggles to stay awake, but other days she seems to tap into the successes of her friends involved in the activities.
By 3:00 PM, Lorrie’s husband arrives. He is always so pleasant and grateful for all those at the Respite Center who care for his wife. He is a loving and caring man. One day I saw them at a grocery store and Lorrie was smiling. She was beautifully dressed and her husband was as attentive as he is when he picks her up. Lorrie is a lucky woman; not all people with this disease are equally attended.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease needs care 24/7. They can wander off or fall; they need assistance with their clothing and personal needs. But the most important quality of care is the dignity he or she deserves and receives. I am blessed to be in the company of all those at the Respite Center who live this. I am pleased to be a part of Catholic Charities, an agency that responds to the needs of people in need, their families and the community."
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