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Issue Date: December 2009

The Comforter: Charles Morelli, Jennings Center for Older Adults

Jennifer Keirn
For more than a decade, Charles Morelli cared for his wife, Margaret, as she slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s. In 2000, when her needs became too great, he placed her in the care of the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Unit at the Jennings Center for Older Adults in Garfield Heights.

Although she died four days later, the kindness shown by Jennings’ staff so impressed Morelli that when they asked him to return as a volunteer, he accepted.

“I’d never thought of volunteering before, but because they were so good to us, I said ‘yes,’ ” Morelli says. “I thought I had something to offer.”

During the past nine years, the now 84-year-old Morelli has volunteered more than 7,500 hours at Jennings, all in the Alzheimer’s Unit, where his wife of 46 years spent her final days.

Even after 11 years as Margaret’s caregiver, Morelli says it’s through volunteering that he’s learned the most about caring for those with Alzheimer’s, particularly in its final stages.

“I go in, say a few prayers, talk with them if they’re alert. You do whatever you can to bring comfort to them,” he says. “That’s what I enjoy more than anything.”

Despite his struggle with peripheral neuropathy, which makes walking and balance difficult, Morelli still visits Jennings three days a week and offers a hand to hold and a caring voice.

“I’ve been blessed, and I want to give back,” he says. “It can be discouraging at times, but it’s worthwhile because you’re bringing some comfort to these people.”

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