The Veil Between Us
The sunbeams streaming into the bright great room contrast sharply with the dark and frightened minds of those seated in the circle. Some of the faces light up as music fills the air and penetrates their memories. A few lip-sing the lyrics, while others remain puzzled. As the Memory Matters staff patiently encourages each individual into participation, the room radiates their love and respect.
Edwina Hoyle, Executive Director of Memory Matters, and her small staff of four, spend their days stimulating, encouraging, and patiently providing a lifeline for the many whose gifted minds have stepped into a dark hallway. The reasons for the darkness are not yet known, and the frustrations and sorrow resulting from Alzheimer's disease or related dementias have driven people world wide to search for help, answers and a cure. Hilton Head Island's Memory Matters serves up to 30 people a day, at least 100 families faced with this pain, denial, and frustration-25 percent of victims are under age 70!
The nonprofit organization, having grown by 30 percent since 2009, is now located in a new 7,000-square-foot facility off William Hilton Parkway. "We desperately needed our own home and are so grateful to all the local churches who provided us space since our inception in 1997," said Edwina "When we were fortunate enough to find this land and construct our new building in 2009, we changed our name from Alzheimer's Respite & Resource (AR&R) to Memory Matters. A tentative decision to grow was catapulted by the compelling need and overwhelming community support. All policies and procedures had to be re-written, and our building had to comply with DHEC's strict regulations. We are so proud... everything was donated. We are inspired to find new ways to assist, not only those struggling with this horrible disease, but their loved ones and caretakers, too."
Edwina, a Pennsylvania native, moved to Hilton Head from Massachusetts with her husband, Renny, in 2002, spent three unhappy years with TSA, and continuously sought work in her experienced field with nonprofit organizations. "In 2005 a small, blind newspaper ad thankfully led me to AR&R, a volunteer driven organization."
Program Directors, Melissa Dalton and Cathee Stegall, spend hours creatively planning recreation and activities in art, yoga, and brain booster games, while Karen Doughtie tirelessly assists Edwina in all the intricate daily demands of this smooth running organization. "Music and art offer a creative way to communicate and express emotions," notes Edwina. "Because most people have owned a pet, they love visits from the service dogs too, which stimulate early memories of home. Glancing around the room of active people, Edwina pauses, "We know we cannot fix it, but we can provide a safe environment where victims feel loved, dignified, and successful in little things to help them reconnect.
We know stress kills, so we offer respite and relief for caregivers, of which one-third will predecease the Alzheimer's patient. We try to help our caregivers remain resilient. Besides classes, each fall we hold a Harvest Moon Formal Ball, an evening of fine dining, live music, dancing, and disco lights for Alzheimer's patients and their families."
Renee Ford, caring for her 84-year-old mother is positive and amazingly relaxed as we discuss the demands put on her. "One day at a time, and we are so thankful for Memory Matters. The support is outstanding. Don't know what we'd do without them." Frank Aretz related much appreciation for assistance given to his 72-year-old wife, Georgia. "Everyone at Memory Matters is doing a great job, and their programs are so helpful to my wife and to me."
"We encourage everyone to reach out for help and to begin journaling to track changes in personality. As with every disease, early detection is crucial." One day the dark veil will be lifted. Meanwhile, Edwina and her staff celebrate their rewards. "Where else could one work and receive so much gratitude...daily," smiled Edwina.
In 2012 Memory Matters received: The Erin Hardwick Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management from the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
Claim to Fame: Visionaries.org filmed four days in the life of patients at Memory Matters and will be airing a documentary of the exemplary work of this organization in 2013.
September 20th: Memory Matters annual art fair featuring fabulous art works by local artists, plus Memory Matters' patients. Join us from 6-9 p.m. $25 admission includes: wine, food and silent auction.
September 27th: Dementia Dialogues- a complimentary 5-week educational course for caregivers. Call Melissa at 843-842-6688 for more information.