For Pat Higginbotham Terrific Tuesday is a mission of love
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Just more than a year ago, the Terrific Tuesdays Program began offering a day out for victims of Alzheimer's Disease and a day off for primary care-givers.

For Pat Higginbotham, whose husband suffers from Alzheimer's, Terrific Tuesdays became a personal mission and she spends her Tuesdays and other time to talking about the program, how it works and its need for volunteers.

"Terrific Tuesday is an organization where you are accepted just as you are and all of us want to be accepted just as we are," Higginbotham said. "Out in the world [Alzheimer's sufferers] cannot function out in the world or realize they can't and don't want to get out. To get them out and get them among people that accept them and love them just as they are is a major thing."

Terrific Tuesdays offers many activities, nutritious meals and interaction with other people to the participants.

"I was amazed, when I found out about it myself, so many people don't know about Terrific Tuesdays, they don't know it's available," she said. "We are trying to get the word out because, not only for the participants but for the caregivers, if you could see the reaction on people's faces when they leave their loved ones at Terrific Tuesdays, they know they will have their minds stimulated."

The program is not a babysitting service, but it is mind stimulating. One of the things that Higginbotham's attention was they put puzzles together in an exercise that stimulates the mind as well as hand-eye coordination and makes the participants stop and think.

"One Tuesday, I went in there and there was a puzzle in front of each participant they had to put together," she said. "When they had it put together, it was a picture of themselves and you should have seen the expressions on their faces when they saw it was them -- they had put a puzzle together that was them."

Each Tuesday something new is happening for the participants. For example, this past Easter participants helped with an Easter egg hunt at Water Oak where they hid eggs for the kids.

"And my husband found a goose egg out there and of course that was a big conversation piece," Higginbotham said.

Participants have also gone to Lowe's where they attended a workshop and each constructed a tool box that had sandpaper, a belt and many other things.

"So there is something going on all the time," she said.

Terrific Tuesdays has also had horse shoe pitching tournaments, picnics and will go back to Lowe's and make a wheel barrow.

Growth in the program, Higginbotham said, has been terrific over the past year and while she fully realizes the benefits of the truly win-win program, many people still do not know about it.

"My husband is a participant also, but my heart goes out to other people, people who still don't know about Terrific Tuesdays" she said.

While Alzheimer's is by no means a new disease, it has been kept a closely held family secret in many instances. The disease only came to the forefront after former President Ronald Reagan announced to the nation he had been diagnosed and the country was kept up to date on his status until his death.

Along with Alzheimer's, other diseases, cancer for example, have long been considered as something that family members did not want friends and neighbors to know about and, for this reason, programs such as Terrific Tuesdays have only come into service in recent years.

"It affects so many people and I still think there is a stigma to that ... people don't want to talk about it," she said. "I think that may be the reason Terrific Tuesday is not utilized to its fullest and I think it has to be a personal decision about if you want bring your loved one to that, but there is nothing to be ashamed of."

For people who have a family member with Alzheimer's and do not know about Terrific Tuesday and are interested, the hours are 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Tuesday in the activities building at First Methodist Church.

While there is a $20 charge, Higginbotham said no one is turned away because of financial reasons.

Volunteers are always needed to help out with the Terrific Tuesday program, according to Higginbotham.

Pat Higginbotham may be reached at 903-582-2293.

"I'm on call 24 hours a day," she said. "This is a ministry, I feel like, for me to help others in this role."

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