Caring for a loved one who is dealing with memory loss isn’t easy.
Warwick resident and business owner Anne Mulhall knows that firsthand and decided to create Al’s Moving Minds, an on-location activity group that runs various two-hour programs for people in the early to moderate stages of memory loss.
The group encourages those suffering from memory loss to be lively, social and independent while allowing caregivers the opportunity to enjoy time to themselves.
“I lovingly refer to it as parks and recreation for grownups,” Mulhall said.
To create awareness and funding for programs, Mulhall is holding an event Saturday night at Meadowbrook Lanes at 2530 Warwick Avenue. The Strike a Pose Fashion Show kicks off at 7 p.m. and will feature unique accessories made by local designers, including handpainted scarves by Lynne McCarthy; oilcloth bags by Beth Iovino; hats by Everett Hoag; as well as jewelry designs by Sabrina Azevedo; Mary Adams; Anita Bevans; and others.
Guests will also get to bowl, eat and dance, as a $20 ticket earns two strings of bowling, snacks and the beats of DJ OG Pauly D. Additionally, there will be a cash bar, raffles and door prizes.
“It will be a fun night,” Mulhall said.
She teamed up with Edward Brady, founder and owner of 4zero1 Entertainment Group, a company that primarily focuses on promoting and planning nightlife events in New England, as well as radio personality Lupe Aguilar, to raise awareness of the event and Al’s Moving Minds.
“It’s an amazing organization that many people don’t know about and Anne’s an amazing woman,” Brady said. “She’s giving families the opportunity to take a break and turn to someone that can help.”
Mulhall, also the executive director of LDI Casting, the largest casting company in Rhode Island, which she founded in 2000, established Al’s Moving Minds in honor of her father, Al Mulhall, in 2009. Sadly, Al struggled with stroke-related memory loss and passed away in 2001.
A year after his death, Mulhall began volunteering at Saint Elizabeth’s home in East Greenwich and started working as an activities assistant at nursing homes throughout Rhode Island. She also served as a recreational therapist in the dementia unit at Elmhurst Extended Care in Providence, all while operating LDI.
“Little by little, I found that I really enjoyed it,” said Mulhall.
From there, Mulhall thought about ways she could lend a hand and crafted the program for people who are no longer able to go to senior centers by themselves because their memory loss is too far gone or they aren’t quite ready to go to full-time day care.
“This is a baby step between both,” she said.
The activities at Al’s Moving Minds motivate clients to journey out of their homes, into the company of others and allow them to help the community. If they spend time knitting, the knitted items go to a local hospital for newborns; when they garden, they sell products at a nearby farmers market; when they create art, they sell it at an art show; and if they study theater, they perform shows.
“Someone once said to me, ‘They are counting the days. It’s our job to make their days count,’” Mulhall said.
The program offers respite for caregivers. They benefit by seeing their family members enjoying life and simultaneously enjoying leisure time.
“It gets to a certain point where everyone needs to be cared for – the caregiver and the client,” Mulhall said. “I don’t care if you’re sitting in your car reading a magazine out in the parking lot; just take a break because then you’ll be able to be a better caregiver.”
Programs meet once a week for four-week increments and can include activities such as games, trivia, as well as breakfast trips to Sunnyside Restaurant at 2428 West Shore Road. The service is free but clients are responsible for fees at facilities they visit.
Participants can take as many programs as they please per week and are accompanied by trained volunteers, who Mulhall guides through a free, five-hour course, as she is certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. All volunteers are given background checks.
“We’re not nurses and we don’t give out medication,” she said. “It’s basic and more about giving companionship. We ask the volunteers to make a commitment to one program and then we switch them out. After four weeks is over, they can come back and volunteer again. It’s to prevent burnout.”
Clients can get involved simply by calling Mulhall and setting up an appointment. She then meets with them to discuss their needs.
“I can assess their level and come up with some programs that they would be into,” she said. “Our programs are designed so everybody can take part. Some people say, ‘I can’t bowl. I’m in a wheelchair.’ I say, ‘Come anyway.’ It’s social time and that’s huge.”
Al’s Moving Minds not only caters to Warwick residents. The programs can be set up in nearby cities in towns, as well.
“If someone were to call me and say, ‘I live in Bristol. Do you guys do an art program?’ I would say, ‘We can schedule one for you,’” Mulhall said. “New programs are developed almost weekly and we’re not limited to a location.”
In fact, she recently started working with the Johnston Senior Center at 1291 Hartford Avenue in Johnston. For example, if someone used to visit the center but has been advised not to go on their own, Al’s Moving Minds provides a volunteer to meet them there.
“This way, they can continue to take part in activities,” she said.
Further, the Johnston Senior Center hosts a support group that provides family members ways to deal with the emotional side of having a loved one lose their memory. Mulhall, who often visits the center, hopes to create a similar group.
“It will be a way to show them the tools and give them armor,” she said.
For more information about the support group at the center, call 401-944-3343.
Mulhall grew up in Warwick and graduated from Warwick Veterans High School, earning the superlatives “Class Clown” and “Most Talkative.” She then lived in New York, where she worked in theatre and did background acting on “Saturday Night Live” before moving to Los Angeles, taking a job for “MADtv” for two seasons and landing roles in a few small movies.
She relocated to Warwick in 1998 when her father became ill. Recently, she also filmed full-time on Showtime’s hit show, “Brotherhood,” with LDI Casting at www.ldicasting.net.
Al’s Moving Mind’s, which is funded through private donors and charity events, is headed by Mulhall. There is also a four-member advisory board consisting of Judge Frank Caprio; Steven Fienberg, director of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office; Scott Seaback, president of Rhode Island Temps; and attorney Tom Briody.
To purchase tickets to the event, contact Mulhall at 401-226-4677. For more information about Al’s Moving Minds, visit alsmovingminds.org.