The Springville Respite Program began three years ago at the Springville First United Methodist Church in partnership with Springville Concord Elder Network (SCENe) and Erie County Senior Services.

The program also receives training and support from the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York and is one of several free memory impairment respite programs available in the region. Each program is offered only once or twice per month but are designed so a caregiver could have one day off per week if they are willing to drive a short distance. Other programs close to Springville include programs in East Aurora, Eden, Hamburg and Holland.

Once a month — which is the first Wednesday of each month, in the case of Springville — a group of volunteers come together to socialize, play games, make crafts and make music with people who have memory impairment issues so their caregivers can feel comfortable leaving them while they enjoy some time to themselves.

The Respite Program offers one-on-one companionship for the guests. Each volunteer has been background checked and has received training from the Alzheimer’s Association. In order to be eligible, guests must have a medical diagnosis of some sort of memory impairment, they must be able to take care of their own bathroom needs and they must be nonviolent for the safety of the other guests and volunteers.

A day at Respite begins with coffee and a snack while working on a game or puzzle with a “buddy” volunteer and enjoying conversation while everyone arrives. Next, guests might start working on a craft project. Previous projects have included red, white and blue clothespin wreaths, snow globes out of baby food jars and scratch-off Valentine’s Day cards, to name a few.

After the craft, the group usually plays a more active game of some sort. Some activities in the past include mini golf, corn hole or batting balloons around using pool noodles. Following this activity, it is time to wash up and prepare for lunch. Lunches are provided, prepared and served by a different group of volunteers from the community each month. Past groups have included church groups, book clubs, gardening clubs and individual families.

After lunch, guests participate in another active game such as parachute, throwing balls at targets or kicking a ball back and forth. When the activity is done, everyone switches gear to a more calm game such as bingo, Uno or dominos.  At 2 p.m., the music crew leads sing-alongs of various types for the last half hour of the day.

Some months, Respite guests do special projects. At the May meeting, for example, 23 care packages were packed and sent to deployed members of the military in honor of Memorial Day. The group thanks everyone who sponsored a box or donated items to fill a box! The Respite guests spent part of the morning baking cookies for the packages and then spent part of the afternoon in an assembly line and filling them.

The Springville Respite Program continues to grow. There are currently 11 registered guests to attend. Unfortunately, there are not enough volunteers to accept all the guests, which means some must be put on a waiting list.

Because the guests are given one-on-one care, an equal number of volunteers and guests are needed each month. If you are interested in being a “buddy” to one of the guests, the time obligation is the first Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ideally, the volunteer pool would be twice as large as the number of guests registered so volunteers would not need to be present every month.

If you are a caregiver interested in the program or for those interested in volunteering for the program, contact Barb Blesy at (716) 435-5400.