The Hinesville Rotary Club and Fort Stewart’s Medical and Dental Activity Command partnered for a special family day celebration Saturday at the Coastal Manor Nursing Home in Ludowici.
Soldiers and Army civilians from Fort Stewart volunteered to entertain, talk and listen to the seniors who call Coastal Manor home. Col. Kirk Eggleston, commander of Winn Army Community Hospital and Stewart-Hunter MEDDAC, talked with Coastal Manor staff and residents about Alzheimer’s. A few months ago, Eggleston, who is a Rotary Club member, gave a detailed presentation for Alzheimer’s awareness to fellow Rotarians.
At that time, he said Alzheimer’s is still a rare disorder, but is becoming a major public health problem. He said staff representatives at Coastal Manor told him that 42 of their 108 residents are assigned to their Alzheimer’s unit.
“I did the presentation for the Rotary Club to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s,” Eggleston said. “We don’t have any Alzheimer’s patients at Winn. Our patient population is much younger. Alzheimer’s is still a disease we can’t cure, but we do have treatments to slow its progress.”
During his Rotary presentation he said the disease is an “irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.” The risk increases with age, he said, with symptoms first appearing in most patients after age 60. Memory loss is the first sign of Alzheimer’s, Eggleston said. Other symptoms include weight loss, seizures, skin infection, groaning, moaning or grunting, increased sleeping and loss of bladder and bowel control, he said.
On Saturday, Eggleston moved among the nursing home residents, talking, but mostly listening. A World War II veteran went on at length about his war experiences with Eggleston, who is also a combat veteran, having served as division surgeon with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq.
Rafael Lopez, a Winn volunteer and Taekwondo instructor brought his taekwondo team to perform for the seniors as part of the activities. Lopez, along with Edmonds Conyers and Rafael Medina lead the Liberty County Taekwondo Demonstration Team through the Liberty County Recreation Department. Kids aging from 7 up wore white outfits with orange, yellow or black belts. They demonstrated kicks and spins they learned under their instructors.
Brigitte Shanken, Winn volunteer coordinator and president of the Hinesville Rotary Club, said Lopez volunteered his team’s time.
“We emphasize being a good student in school and how to stay out of trouble,” Lopez said, saying their martial arts skills were not for bullying but to build self-confidence. “They learn self-control and how to become better citizens… I volunteer with the Red Cross now, but I’m going to be assigned as a volunteer with the physical therapy department, four or five hours a day.”
Another volunteer, Sherry McNabb, who works as an oral surgeon dental assistant, volunteered her daughter, Tahnnee McNabb, 9, to demonstrate the jazz dance/gymnastics she’s learned through the Inspiration Performance Studio in Hinesville and Ludowici.
Other DENTAC volunteers mingling with residents and helping set up the picnic for residents were Sgt. Camanita Ieremia, Spc. Andrew Hampton, Spc. Michael Massey, Spc. Nicole Spulveda, Latoya Bacon and Wanda Lopez.
Cooking the burgers, hotdogs and sausage were Roscoe Phipps and Al Harris with the Ammon Temple in Darien. As they cooked, other volunteers cut watermelons. By noon, residents and volunteers were eating. The family day, which, for Rotary members counted as a Rotary Day celebration, ended at around 1:30.