Caregivers of those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia can get a few hours rest each week through a program offered at First Assembly of God Church in Van Buren.

Caregivers Day Out is held every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for individuals stricken with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the ones who take care of them on a daily basis.

Volunteers work with those suffering from mental diseases, while their guardians are given the chance to attend doctor’s appointments, run errands and enjoy some free time, said Hilda Daugherty, activity planner for the program.

Each day out is organized around a theme, and the participants take part in a variety of activities, including music and sing-a-longs, devotionals, handcrafts, and games that stimulate memory with eye association, Daugherty said.

"Anything we can do … to improve their quality of life," Daugherty said. "We try to cater to each one’s abilities."

Volunteers on hand Tuesday helped the visitors make Valentine’s Day boxes as they might have during their school days, covering shoe boxes with paper and ribbon and stickers, and cutting slots for the Valentine’s cards.

Cost for the four-hour program is $10, and participants are served refreshments and lunch. The program has a capacity of up to 12 each day, though only about four or five people attend the program each week.

"It really helps the caregivers to give them four hours a week to do whatever," said volunteer Sharon Chastain, "and it really helps the people, too."

Debra Johnson, assistant executive director for Memory Lane, the Alzheimer’s special care unit associated with First Assembly, started the program nearly three years ago, Daugherty said.

"Evidently, she was inspired to try and help the families of the community," Daugherty said.

And it is a help, said David King, who dropped his father Ed King off at the church Tuesday to take part in the day’s activities.

"It gives my mom a much-needed break each week," David King said.

David King’s mother Marilyn King is a full-time caregiver for his dad, who suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, he said.

"He doesn’t remember a lot, but he’s always ready to come here," David King said of the program. "He lights up when we come in the room."

King bragged on the affordability of the program and the care his father is given. He also talked about the impact the program has on his dad.

"I’ve come in before and they were playing with a ball around a table, and seeing my dad’s reaction to that ball, when usually he just sits and stares at the wall," King said, tearing up as he became overwhelmed with emotion.

Teresa Kendrick oversees the program, and volunteers called from the church were given a half-day training session to work in the program, Daugherty said.

Volunteers also seem to bring a great deal of love, patience and compassion to the program, as attested by those with family that attend.

"We wish they could take her every day because she has so much fun," said Jeanne Carroll of her grandmother, Helene McCauley.

McCauley suffers from dementia and actually lives in Memory Lane now, but Carroll is glad she can still participate in the program, she said.

"On Tuesdays, we know she’s going to have a great day," Carroll said. "For me, it gives me peace of mind."

King agrees, and said he is surprised more people don’t participate.

"[My father] goes to other programs in the area, but this is the best," King said.