Close your eyes and imagine a place where you walk in and are greeted by smiling and energetic faces; where you sit down and enjoy the company of friends while sipping coffee or tea; where you have the chance to exercise and joke and laugh; where you are personally challenged, mentally, without even knowing it; where you can select your favorite song and have it played on a player piano; or where you can just listen to the soft sounds of the piano, or perhaps participate in a sing-a-long with familiar tunes.. Imagine a place where you are able to embrace technology, learning new things and reminiscing, and playing games that offer hours of entertainment. Imagine a garden lush with greenery and flowers. You can feel a gentle breeze on your face as you sit in the garden, peacefully.
Now, stop imagining, because it’s real.
Charlie’s Place is a social model respite center and is a unique ongoing program that offers caregivers a simple solution in keeping loved ones at home longer and delaying overwhelming expenses associated with long-term care. Charlie’s Place resembles a home with living, dining, and kitchen areas. Clients are greeted by staff and volunteers each morning as they arrive. Clients engage in conversations or reminiscing activities, word games, puzzles, or participate in various therapies (music and art) each day. Clients of Charlie’s Place are all individuals with a diagnosis of dementia (65 years or older) or younger onset dementia 65 or younger). Alzheimer’s Services does not discriminate based on ethnicity, race, religion, or income. Clients are required to be ambulatory, display continence, and able to feed themselves with minimal assistance.
My name is Pam Faciane and I am now an Alzheimer’s caregiver. In these last few years my life has been filled with many life-changing moments. My husband Bruce was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s in July of 2013 at the age of 54. Bruce was kind, laid-back, on the quiet side until he got to know you. He was a very hard-worker, a loyal employee and wanted to give his family all he could. He enjoyed our children, especially their sporting events! He never missed any of their games, meets, etc. He was very active in our church and community. He helped me with events at St. Thomas More Preschool where I taught for 16 years and then was blessed to become director in 2011.
Bruce studied construction management but ended up in the car industry for 30 years. I never thought I would be married to a car salesman. Bruce was a top salesman and finance manager and provided well for our family.
In another life-changing moment in 2005 my mother, who Bruce was very close to, passed away. She was like a mother to Bruce. I didn’t realize how much her loss had affected him. A year or so later, our children and I began noticing little things — bags of chips, cokes and candy being hidden in a hutch where I kept party dishes. Cokes, Gatorades hidden in our shed and under the backseat of his truck. Bruce would say it was so no one would get them — meaning our kids! Packets of flower seeds and garden seeds would appear everywhere. In 2008, Bruce’s father came to live with us. I was constantly fussing as Bruce would not put anything up; he would not help do anything and would blame his dad for everything out of place.
Bruce was not doing well at work but he did not tell me that. He lost his management job and said it was the car industry and everyone cutting back. He went back into sales and did okay but after a few months, things were not so good and at worse at home. He would yell at his dad and all of us. He was mean and ugly to everyone. This was not at all like Bruce. I thought it was the stress of his job situation. In January of 2013 Bruce’s father passed away, another life-changing moment. Making the arrangements, Bruce could not make a decision. It was hitting me that something was really wrong with him. Family asked, what was going on with him?
Bruce lost his job a month later and just sat at home all day staring at the computer. He refused to get a job. Told me he would find one in time. He needed a break and we would be fine. By May, I was done. I told him if he didn’t go to a doctor and find out what was going on, he would have to leave.
I shared what was going on with the doctor, a friend of ours. I asked if there any way it could be Alzheimer’s. He’s too young right?
“Let’s run some tests” was the reply and we were sent to a neurologist. On our first visit, I gave details and Bruce denied them, however, the doctor saw the signs. My heart began to pound as Bruce could not remember the three words he was asked to remember. I almost fell out of my chair when he could not draw a clock. I was sick. My eyes filled with water and the doctor suggested more tests. Really? If you had been living my life I assure you the further testing was no comfort.
The first question the doctor asked, “Does he drive?”
It hit me. For the past year or so he would tell me he didn’t feel like driving, a tire was low, or he wanted to ride in the newer car. I realized I was doing all the driving.
The doctor said he should not be driving at all and she began to show us his results. When I tell you I thought I was going to die, I truly did not think I would make it out of her office. I was trying so hard to be strong and not cry as I did not want to upset Bruce. It was horrible — drawing he had to recreate was worse than what my preschoolers could do. Another doctor and finally a diagnosis of Younger On-Set Alzheimer’s. I looked at him and asked, “What am I supposed to do next? What do I do?”
I sat there, again stunned, sick and wanting to throw a tantrum. I didn’t have my momma. My husband has really been out of our relationship for several years and now, how was I going to take care of him, our children, work? I was overwhelmed.
It took me a couple of weeks to grasp all that happened that day. Bruce and I decided we were not going to keep this a secret. I shared the news with my preschool family and as we came back to school in August. One of my dear friends said we needed to talk. She told me to call Alzheimer Services, speak to Dana Territo who would help me. I had to promise her I would make the call.
When I finally did make the call to Alzheimer’s Services, it was another life-changing moment.
Dana was wonderful. I do not know how many times I cried. I had just found out that Bruce had gone through all of our savings, he had stopped his life insurance several months prior to losing his job, he had not paid the bills and our house that should be paid off in January 2017 had been refinanced for a 40 year mortgage. Bruce forged my signature. Alzheimer’s Services provided me with “The 36 Hour Day” book along with information on the disease, and what services and support they had. I was encouraged to attend Lunch and Learns, meetings, and getting more support including Charlie’s Place, Alzheimer’s Services activity and respite center.
Another life-changing moment was when Bruce started one day a week at Charlie’s Place. Bruce really liked Charlie’s Place. It gave him a purpose: fun activities, visitors and a garden, which he loved. My father graciously offered to help by driving Bruce for me because I was now the sole breadwinner for our family and had to work.
As things were getting into a rhythm, the August floods hit and our home flooded, another life-changing moment. God sent his angels to me. A dear friend and his brother helped us evacuate and then offered us to stay in their house where we lived for four months. Over the next several months, my dear friend took over the rebuilding of my home. He and his family gave us a place to live and became our hero. We had many heroes and angels in our lives as our friends came in and helped demolish, clean, and rebuild. I needed somewhere for Bruce to stay as I could not leave him in our friend’s home alone during the day. Another gift from God, Alzheimer’s Services welcomed Bruce at Charlie’s Place daily and I could have peace of mind. When I tell you God is good, he is just that. When we are at our weakest, he will provide.
We moved back in our house the week before Thanksgiving. We only had beds in the house and had two bathrooms for use. This was rough on Bruce. We saw him decline more quickly and paranoia set in. He thought someone or something was controlling our dogs and he also began wandering. After a few weeks the paranoia with the dogs stopped and we had some peace. Just as we thought all was better, now Bruce thought someone was poisoning him with toxic water and he started spitting to rid himself of the toxins. We would tell him to stop but he said he couldn’t. At Charlie’s Place, the staff noticed the changes and implemented care strategies to relieve his fears, including official-looking letters from the government assuring Bruce the water was safe. Nothing could relieve his paranoia.
Another life-changing moment, on March 6th my dad had a stroke. While I was keeping vigil at his bedside Bruce’s symptoms worsened. The doctor’s doubled his medication but nothing worked. We still had Charlie’s Place but Bruce continued to decline. He was now hiding in the bushes; we were out looking for him after midnight several times. The stress and changes confused Bruce and he would get angry. I cannot tell you how many times I spoke with staff at Alzheimer’s Services.
With my dad now in rehab, the children and I made the decision to place Bruce in a care facility. Dana sent me information and I had long talks with Molly, an Alzheimer’s Services social worker, for reassurance. I had to find a safe place where he could be happy. His life means more to me than my own. I need him to enjoy what time he has left and for my family to be happy when we are together. Bruce is now in a safe place where he can do what he wants; he can go outside and not wander off and is well-cared-for.
I cannot begin to tell you how much Alzheimer’s Services means not only to me but to our community. They have been my gift from God during these past few years. I never dreamed I would be in this place, especially at my age. The thought of not having my husband is still very hard — he reality is I haven’t had him for many years. Leaving him in his new home was one of the hardest moments in my life. I am forever grateful to Alzheimer Services. To Dana, Barbara, Molly, Dedrick and all of the staff at Charlie’s Place, there are no words to truly express this. No person should have to fight this wicked disease alone, with Alzheimer’s Services, no one in our community has to.
Not only did my life change, my children’s lives changed also. One consolation I treasure is a beautiful birthday message from our daughter: She wrote, “Thank you for teaching me at a young age to love unconditionally, stay humble, stand for what I believe and be a friend to everyone.”
Charlie’s Place has been a true blessing in our lives.
Charlie’s Place was named the 2008 Day Center of the Year by the National Adult Day Center Association; has received the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Excellence in Dementia Care Program of Distinction four times (and is the only care setting in the State of Louisiana to receive such a distinction); and has received Service Learning commendations from Louisiana State University and Our Lady of the Lake College.
I called Charlie’s Place when my husband had a paranoia episode, which included hallucinations. They were able to give me suggestions on what to do and how to calm him down. Of course, they suggested I consult his doctor, which I did.
Welcome to Charlie’s Place