re:Vision - Respite Care Serves Community


(Photo: United Methodist Communications)

By Julie Wright

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates the number of adults 65 and older diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias will increase 46 percent by 2025. And that doesn’t include those who will go undiagnosed. Many will depend on a spouse or family member to provide care in the home. When caregivers need a few hours for self-care – doctor appointments, errands, time with friends – what are their options?

In a survey of the population within a five-mile radius of Peachtree Road UMC in January 2017, almost one-third of the respondents expressed a “modest concern” regarding caring for aging parents while 13.4 percent have “significant concerns." We receive calls almost weekly from caregivers and family members asking for help to care for a loved one who can no longer be left alone.

An inter-faith group of congregations in Midtown Atlanta and Buckhead, including Peachtree Road UMC and the Jewish Temple, have taken initial steps to open a congregational respite care program. There are three main objectives of the respite care program:

  1. To provide spiritually integrated respite care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia to ensure they experience intellectual stimulation and meaningful connections.

  2. To provide caregivers time for themselves.

  3. And to offer volunteers opportunities to serve others in our community and build compassionate relationships with participants and their families. 

While the program will have a paid director, it will rely on volunteers to serve for all or part of the day. These volunteers may play the piano and lead singing, direct the participants in creative activities, lead physical exercises, serve and clean up lunch, coordinate and train volunteers, lead a caregiver’s support group, and many other things to stimulate these elders in need.

For the steering committee which is comprised of representatives from eight different denominations, finding suitable space was a high priority with several requirements. It must be well-lit with bathrooms in very close proximity. Limited access is important to avoid wandering participants. On-site food service is needed to provide lunch and a piano for singing is a wonderful addition. An enclosed outdoor space for participants to get outside and enjoy fresh air is a big plus as well. The youth center at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church suits this mission well and using this space weekdays will not interfere with the youth ministry activities. 

Next on our agenda is to raise funding for equipment, a director’s salary, and other initial costs. Before approaching donors, we were advised to develop a business plan, including financial projections for three years.

Thankfully, our steering committee includes individuals who have the expertise and talents for just such a task – the blessing of many parts of the Body! A smaller task force has begun this work this summer. 

We plan to launch the respite care program next fall, and there are still many steps we must take between now and then. We ask for your prayers and for God’s guidance as our work continues.

Rev. Julie Wright is an ordained deacon and serves as an Associate Minister at Peachtree Road UMC. Contact her at

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