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Club helps families of those with Alzheimer’s, other degenerative conditions

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MESA – When her mother’s brittle diabetes got out of hand, Maria Klimaszewski knew the choice was clear: Bring her home.

It was difficult to provide the kind of care, interaction and supervision needed by her 71-year-old mother, Evelyn Hopkins. When Klimaszewski went to work, Hopkins was at home with little to do.

“My mother wasn’t happy,” Klimaszewski said.

But after finishing work these days, Klimaszewski picks up her mother at the Oakwood Creative Care, finding out that Hopkins has taken a history class or sewn a quilt to be donated to a charity that helps children. Her mother’s joy is apparent.

“She became quite enamoured with the place and found the quilting that she could do again, which she used to do before she had to move out of her home,”  Klimaszewski said. listen

Oakwood Creative Care is a day club for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other degenerative diseases.

“They still have the opportunity to contribute, to be apart of the community and to have purpose and so we don’t cage them up like caged animals,” said Sherry Friend, the president and CEO. “We integrate them into the community, we provide find volunteer opportunities for them.” listen

Her staff leads members in fitness sessions like yoga, Zumba, and tai chi to improve balance and reduce falls. There also are outings such as fishing trips.

On this day they were making sculptures using three-dimensional cardboard shapes, hot glue, paper mache and paint.

“When they are done we will have a art gallery for their families to come and visit,” Friend said.

The activities and interaction help participants maintain increase or maintain their cognitive function, Friend said.

“They are increasing in their social skills and in their physical skills,” she said.

The club costs $80 for a full day and $40 for a half day, but Friend said it’s covered by Medicare and insurance.

Hopkins, Klimaszewski’s mother, said being here makes her feel like she is accomplishing something.

“I feel wonderful that some of these kids that probably don’t get a lot of stuff are getting some things,” Hopkins said. “And it will keep them warm.” listen

Friend said while the day club strives to brighten the days of members but also has a big impact on their families.

“They are able to realize that their loved one isn’t a disease, they still have life left,” she said.

Klimaszewski said the biggest difference Oakwood has made in her life is seeing her mother’s happiness.

“It keeps her mind occupied, it keeps her heart full and interactive so she’s not doing anything and it gives her joy,” she said.

Hopkins said that it’s not just the sewing machine that keeps her coming back; it’s the staff and volunteers.

“The people who work here are extra special,” she said. “They have sympathy for every individual here, they are never cross and they always try to keep us busy and thinking of something to do, and they are just a top-notch crew.”