Hope, Help & Guidance for Alzheimer’s Families

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Christmas Angels

by Donna Buttarazzi [dbuttarazzi@seacoastonline.com]

Posted 12/20/2018 —> link to original article HERE

KENNEBUNK — When Sally Tartre’s mother started leaving sticky notes all over her house, and called her adult daughter one day to ask why she hadn’t gotten off the school bus, she and her four siblings knew something was wrong.

They received the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, and as Tartre put it, “We were sent on our way. There is no treatment. We had no idea where to start.”

That was 2009. Her mother died in 2011, and Tartre opened the non-profit A Place to Start — aptly named following her own family’s struggles — in 2012.

“We were a family with resources. We were five adult children who all got along,” Tartre said. “And there were times when we were just lost. I couldn’t help but think how much more difficult it must be for other families. I decided I wanted to do something to help.”

A Place to Start has become an invaluable resource to families dealing with the isolation and decisions that have to be made following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

“We’re the connector. Most of the time they don’t even know what they need when they call for the first time. We’ve vetted out a lot of good resources for the whole myriad of issues people are facing,” Tartre said.

Tartre is joined at A Place to Start by Diane Dubea who helps with the programs such as the twice monthly Caregiver Support Group, and a variety of events geared toward getting caregivers and their loved ones with dementia out into the community. Dubea worked as Tartre’s mother’s caregiver during her illness, and now both women work to make the lives of those walking the same path a little easier.

“It’s a very isolating disease. Typically the medical community just says, ‘I’m so sorry, you have dementia,’ and then they leave. There’s no team of caregivers for someone with dementia,” Dubea said.

That’s where A Place to Start comes in, providing connections with resources, and connections with others walking the same very difficult and uncertain road.

Six years after they opened their doors, A Place to Start, located in a sunny, inviting space on Main Street in Kennebunk, welcomes families and Alzheimer’s patients with a variety of support groups and programs. They take picnics to Rogers Pond during the warmer months, and have pizza parties and potluck lunches.

Tartre said one of the most important things her organization does, is break down the stereotypes and stigma associated with dementia. It gives people a place to talk about it and helps them to know they aren’t alone.

“This is not a depressing place. We have fun here,” Tartre said. “There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of joy. We encourage people to embrace it and live with it, and we let them know they are not walking alone.”

When she opened A Place to Start, Tartre didn’t have any other organizations to model it after in the dementia community. The space at 41 Main St. is an inviting place for hope, help and guidance, and it is still a unique gem of a resource. Tartre feels it’s important to keep it small and personal, but welcomes other people using A Place to Start as a model to start more centers. The need is great in the Alzheimer’s community, she said.

“We have a husband, or wife, or daughter who will come in and they are in the trenches with this disease every day, and it is tough,” Tartre said. “And we let them know we are in the trench with them.”

To learn more or to support A Place to Start, go to www.aplacetostartfordementia.org or find them on Facebook.

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