BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The National Health Institute reported a growing number of Americans are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Experts in Louisiana concur, and a program called “Charlie’s Place” allows participants to stimulate their cognition while full-time caretakers get six hours of respite.

The program was created 16 years ago by the nonprofit group, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, which is celebrated its 40th anniversary in March. During the week, participants can utilize a relaxed environment to engage in music, gardening, arts and crafts and exercise.

“We just want to be there to support them,” said Barbara Auten, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 5.8 million Americans in 2020 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementias. The disease has no cure, and it progressively eliminates people’s memory and cognitive abilities. The result can be social stigma and isolation, Auten said, and there is a growing need for ways to safely socialize.

“The less that they use their cognition, the quicker they will diminish in their capacity,” Auten said, “We want to keep them active.”

The services provided through Charlie’s Place cost as little as $10 a month, according to the nonprofit’s website, and they give families a way to improve a loved one’s quality of life. Charles LeBoeuf’s wife, Nancy LeBoeuf was diagnosed with dementia in 2020, and he said her life at home has become increasingly difficult.

“Day to day, she parks in front of the TV and watches I’m not even sure she watch cause I’ll ask her, What are you watching? She can’t answer,” LeBoeuf said.

The progressively worsening disease has been a burden.

“You’ve lost your wife,” LeBoeuf said. “We sleep in different rooms. We very rarely communicate. These are things that are very personal and very deep.”

LeBoeuf said he met someone with Alzheimer’s Services who passed along information about Charlie’s Place. His wife rebuffed the idea at first, but she found a place that makes her feel safe and allows her to have fun.

“This gives her joy, something I haven’t been able to do,” LeBoeuf said.

The nonprofit opened another location in Gonzales six years ago, and there is a plan to open another in North Baton Rouge. Auten said people can help through monetary donations and spreading the word about services so families know there are available resources.

LeBoeuf said the six hours he gets after dropping off his wife allow him to do much-needed tasks, and they give him a moment of peace amidst the chaos that can come from being a full-time caretaker. Nancy LeBoeuf’s excitement makes it even better.

“She’s ready to go,” LeBoeuf said, “She’s dressed. How many times do you get up and you can’t get her to dress?”

LeBoeuf said he knows where the disease will inevitably lead after witnessing his mother and mother-in-law have the same diagnosis, but he’s thankful Charlie’s Place provides help in the meantime.

“I just want everybody to know about Charlie’s Place,” LeBoeuf said. “It doesn’t make all the negative go away, but it is a help.”