March's MVP: Karen Doughtie

Karen Doughtie aims to make a difference for people with Alzheimer’s.

Karen Doughtie aims to make a difference for people with Alzheimer’s.KAREN DOUGHTIE FOUND HER calling when she began working with Alzheimer’s patients and their families. “Our elders are not always treated with a great deal of respect,” she said. “In this position, I can make a di ference.”

Originally from Houston, Doughtie is a 30-year resident of Hilton Head Island and has been with Alzheimer’s Respite & Resource for about 5 1/2 years.

“I believe that it’s a calling from God,” she said. “I was always close to my grandmother and grandfather. I have a great love for seniors because of their experience in life.”

Doughtie has a degree in early elementary special education and a background in tourism sales and marketing.

Her introduction to the needs of Alzheimer’s patients and their families began as sales director at Carolina House of Bluffton.

“I wanted to have a personal impact with families and people a ffected by Alzheimer’s and dementia,” she said.

She later found that opportunity with Alzheimer’s Respite & Resource.

“This is the perfect thing for me to be doing,” she said.

Alzheimer’s Respite & Resource is a nonprofit agency that began 11 years ago as a grass-roots e ffort by a group of people who saw the need in a community with many retirees.

It’s a volunteer-driven organization with a small sta of paid employees including Executive Director Edwina Hoyle; Program Director Cathee A. Stegall; Doughtie, who serves as program and outreach coordinator; and Jeannie Thompson, administrative assistant.

Doughtie said that people unfamiliar with the agency’s social day program “would be very surprised to see,” its upbeat environment that offers art, music and pet therapy to people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia five days a week.

With America’s aging population, it’s projected that cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia will increase 70 percent by the year 2030.

“We’re all going to live longer,” Doughtie said. “More and more people are being touched by this disease.” Doughtie said it’s key that people pay attention to early warning signs, because there are now medica medications that can delay symptoms for years.

Educating the community and the families of patients is part of the organization’s mission. They offer support groups twice a month for caregivers.

Doughtie leads a program called Brain Boosters, a proactive approach to early memory loss. “People are living longer and we want to live with a healthy brain,” she said. “We offer tools to keep your brain active.”

The nonprofit agency is renovating a facility it hopes to open by late summer that would allow it to double the number of people enrolled in the social day program and expand its hours from four to six or seven a day.

Alzheimer’s Respite & Resource has received a large grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and a three-year commitment from the Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island to raise $250,000. That leaves the agency with $700,000 to raise.

Doughtie said the agency helps about 150 people in an average month, and answers about 10 hotline calls per week, helping people through emergencies and the initial devastating news of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Doughtie hopes to see the agency, “in the forefront of a doctor’s mind,” when he’s delivering the news to patients and their families.

Warning signs of Alzheimer’s

  1. Memory loss
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  3. Problems with language
  4. Disorientation to time and place
  5. Poor or decreased judgment
  6. Problems with abstract thinking
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Changes in mood or behavior
  9. Changes in personality
  10. Loss of initiative

Alzheimer’s Respite & Resource

Where: 3001 Meeting St.
Details: (843) 842-6688 or