For Hometown News
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Recently "Care for the Caregiver" social respite program participants and volunteers at the Alzheimer & Parkinson Association activities center enjoyed a special visit from Rusty, a well-mannered "volunteer" who likes to have his head patted and tummy rubbed.
"We don't ask all of our volunteers to do this, but Rusty is a special exception," said Peggy Cunningham, executive director of Alzheimer & Parkinson Association of Indian River County.
Rusty is an emotional support animal-certified golden retriever who plans to visit the program on a monthly basis. As an ESA, Rusty makes his rounds among the group during his visit and patiently visits with each member of the group. When someone gets tired of petting him, he just moves down one spot to the next person, making sure that each and every one is greeted and given a healthy dose of love and gratitude.
Rusty's family member, Jeremy Schwibner, takes time away from his professional job as a financial advisor with the Ashdown | ShamboWealth Management Group Merrill Lynch, to make a big impact in a small way.
The social respite group is designed to provide a positive environment for clients affected by memory disorders and to provide caregivers a three-hour window of respite.
"Rusty is the sweetest, most loving dog and we are excited that the Alzheimer and Parkinson Association is allowing us the opportunity to visit," said Mr. Schwibner.
"I look forward to coming back monthly and I know he does, too! He just loves people, plain and simple. It was great to see smiles and bring joy to the group."
Caring for the Caregiver, funded through a grant from John's Island Community Service League and a local philanthropist, is a three-pronged respite program designed to offer caregivers temporary relief as they face the challenges presented to them on a daily basis.
The three respite formats include in-home, companion-level care, adult day care in collaboration with the Senior Resource Association and social respite groups that are held at three locations: Alzheimer & Parkinson Association Activities Center in Vero Beach, Roseland Community Center in Sebastian and Macedonia Baptist Church in Gifford.
Provided free of charge, the Vero Beach social respite program is held five mornings a week and the Roseland and Gifford programs are held one morning and one afternoon a week, respectively. The locally based programs are designed to allow caregivers the time to take care of themselves, to attend appointments, social outings, exercise or just have some quality down time.
Alzheimer & Parkinson Association of Indian River County is not an affiliate of a national organization and is 100 percent supported through donations derived from grants, events, individuals and businesses.
Programs are designed for those challenged by disorders affecting memory and motion, such as essential tremors, stroke, autism, lewy bodies and others. Services provided to area residents include support groups, a lending library resource center, monthly program meetings, caregiver training, Project Lifesaver tracking bracelets, respite program, an activity center, weekly exercise classes and memory screenings.
Nearly 4,100 caregivers, clients, and professionals participated in the organization's programs in 2011.
For more information, visit www.alzpark.com or call (772) 563-0505.