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The relief for caregivers: Grace Place opens at Meals on Wheels

Lupe Cardenas and Petra Garza do some workouts at Grace Place during the opening of the facility on April 11.
Gabriella Alcorta-Solorio
Lupe Cardenas and Petra Garza do some workouts at Grace Place during the opening of the facility on April 11.

Grace Place at Meals on Wheels officially opened its doors on Thursday for people who need dementia care.

The facility creates a new resource for dementia caregivers to receive support and for those with dementia to interact with a stimulating environment.

“We have activities in here, and so people will come in, and whether they sort shells, whether they are folding laundry — it’s something to get them into a comfort zone,” said Vinsen Faris, CEO of Meals on Wheels San Antonio. “The activities are amazing; the people are amazing.”

The facility can hold up to 50 people every day. Although the ones receiving services are those with dementia, Faris said that the services also provide relief for caregivers.

“Whether it’s a spouse or a child, they can continue to work, they can continue to work around the house, they can go play golf,” Faris said. “They can do other things and not just spend 24/7 on caring for their loved one.”

Laura Hernandez brought her mother, Lupe Cardenas, to Grace Place’s “graceful gatherings” after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This wasn’t the first time Hernandez has dealt with dementia — her mother-in-law passed after battling Alzheimer’s.

“My mom was just thriving when she was here,” she said. “When they approached us about, they were going to be opening, we got on the waitlist because it’s just amazing.”

Hernandez said she was that support for her husband during that time but now it hits a lot closer because now it’s her mom. Grace Place has become a place that they find brings them comfort in caring for her mom, she added.

Director of Alzheimer's Services Christina Avena said the process was long but seeing the facility full of people made it worthwhile.

“If they are able to be enrolled in Grace Place for their last year or half year, it’s a win,” Avena said. “Our goal is care, and not just care for the person with dementia, it’s care for the caregiver.”

Along with the opening of Grace Place, the program is continuing its Grace at Home initiative that brings monthly activity kits to families around the city.

Faris and Avena hope to open more Grace Place centers around the city.

For more information and how to connect with Grace Place, visit the Meals on Wheels website.

Gabriella Alcorta-Solorio is a health reporting intern for Texas Public Radio in collaboration with Texas Community Health News through Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the university’s Translational Health Research Center.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Bioscience and Medicine News Desk including UT Health San Antonio and Dr. Johnny and Joni Reyna, supporting prostate cancer research and early detection to save lives.

Gabriella Alcorta-Solorio is a journalism major at Texas State University, minoring in women’s studies. She has previously worked as a photojournalist with The Ranger and has reported on Alzheimer’s and dementia using public health data. She plans to stay in South Texas after graduation to build a career in journalism focused on women’s rights and human rights.