Funding comfort for Alzheimer's patients

Judy Salamacha
Judy Salamacha

The Alzheimer’s Association states that 678,000 Californians are suffering from Alzheimer’s or degenerative dementia. That number will increase to 1.1 million by 2030.

Until a cure is found, the alternative is to cope.

“We strive to make our residents’ lives dignified and independent — as good as it gets at that moment in time,” Kasey Watson, owner of Garden House in Morro Bay, said.

Before April 1, 2013, when she purchased the assisted living home at 480 Main St., Watson provided countywide music and art therapy as a certificated Art Without Boundaries therapist (artwithoutboundaries.net). 

“Memories don’t stick as well after 40. It’s a reason why the music we loved as teenagers remains our favorite music,” she explained. “As Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, our residents retain more memories from their earlier years. The music and art therapy elicits those good memories.”

Watson continually seeks new activities from community resources for the 15 residents of Garden House.

She cited examples that help brighten a resident’s days, such as planting a herb garden and sampling Filipino dishes cooked by a Garden House employee.

“Visits by family or friends are always a blessing for everyone since, like our homes, we gather in the living room,” Watson said. “The residents love visiting with babies, children, college kids and pets.

“Everyone enjoyed Wilmar Tognazzini’s visits when he played the piano. Ken Vesterfelt brought eight classic cars from the Morro Bay Car Show to our parking lot. The car owners helped our residents remember the first car they owned. During Cal Poly’s ‘Making a Difference Day,’ 20 students painted the residents’ rooms. Woods Humane Society brings furry friends.”

On Tuesdays, Rich Smucker and Laura DeLoye of Mariposa Music Therapy entertain.

“A magical moment was when the musical trio Green to White learned a resident was on hospice and they asked to play for her,” Watson said. “All the residents gathered in the parlor outside her room to listen and dance.”

As a privately held 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Garden House has periodic fundraisers to help offset costs for families who cannot afford the residency costs. Up to $120,000 in subsidies are provided annually, including respite care for families who use home care for their loved ones.

According to Watson, Mark Tognazzini will host a Garden Party fundraiser from 2:30 to

8 p.m. Saturday at Tognazzini’s Dockside Too, 1245 Embarcadero in Morro Bay. All wine, beer and soda sales will benefit Garden House.

Singer-songwriter Richie Begin will play first, followed by Green to White, which is releasing its debut CD.

The event is free and no reservations are needed. Tickets will be sold for raffle prizes. Talley Farms Fresh Harvest and Central Coast Home Health are sponsoring the event.

For more information, call 720-3281.