A Warm Welcome

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“Wherever we lived my mother always worked really hard to make it feel like home,” says Laurie Ralph of her mother, Muriel Whelan. Mrs. Whelan was a military wife and mother to four children. Her husband’s assignments took the family from Japan to England and Germany and from Maine to Mississippi. Always outgoing and active, Mrs. Whelan enjoyed getting to know the different people and learning about their cultures, but making her home a happy one was always her primary focus. Laurie explains, “Our family was my mother’s career, and she made sure that as long as we were a unit, we were home.”

Before retiring, Mrs. Whelan worked in the accounting department at George Mason University and volunteered as a Gray Lady with the Red Cross Blood Drive. She and her husband were also avid square dancers-a hobby they took up while living and Germany.

When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Mrs. Whelan moved in with her daughter. Laurie hired an in-home caregiver to stay with her mother while she was at work. Although the caregiver provided for her mother’s needs while she was away, Laurie was concerned that her active mother was no longer getting the social interaction she needed. She did not realize that adult day care-which provides supervision and stimulating activities in a social setting-was available until a co-worker told her about the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center in Fairfax, VA.

Laurie requested information from the Center and quickly decided that they could provide the interesting activities and new friends her mother needed. When Mrs. Whelan joined the Center, she became their 1,000th participant. “They had a party for her and gave her a sash; she was so thrilled with that,” recalls Laurie.

Considering the warm welcome, it’s no surprise that Mrs. Whelan is excited to go the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center every morning. Laurie relates, “She refers to it as going to work, and she enjoys it so much. She does help out a lot too, with washing dishes and getting drinks for the other participants; she has always been one to pitch in, and it makes her feel good to have something to do every day.”

The comfort of knowing that her mother is safe and happy means the world to Laurie: “She always comes home and tells me about the exciting things they did that day. They have all types of activities including arts and crafts, van rides, physical therapy, and a breakfast club. Their fees are very reasonable too. The important thing, though, is that my mother comes home happy.” Mrs. Whelan loves going to “work” and was delighted to participate in the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center’s recent Saturday pilot program.

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