The Sampson County Department of Aging’s Family Caregiver Support Program offers a Dementia Education/Alzheimer’s Support Group. We meet once a month on the second Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m. There is no charge to attend.
Though support groups may not appeal to some caregivers the caregivers that attend get a wealth of information. I give specific education relative to this disease and the opportunity for each caregiver to share their hardships. We work together, to learn more on how this disease impacts us all. I have learned a great deal about this disease just by listening to the caregivers. We all can agree Alzheimer’s changes the life of the person with the disease. We can also agree that this disease changes the life of the caregiver and the entire family. At the end of our meeting when the caregivers leave, they all have a sense of connection, they find comfort in each other because they understand each other. They understand each other more so than I do, because they are living it. They share the thread that weaves them together. I sit and listen as they all share and cannot imagine each day they face with their loved one. The ups and downs are many.
If you are a friend of a family living with Alzheimer’s please do not just forget about them. Do not be afraid to visit and do not stop being a friend. The caregiver needs you; yes you, friend. I think sometimes friends stop visiting because they will feel awkward. Friends may feel uncomfortable and uneasy because of the abnormal situation. When friends make phone calls or send a card to encourage the caregiver, it may make a very long day seem a little brighter.
I want to challenge not only family friends but church families as well. Church families do not forsake those members that are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Several years ago I had a caregiver that was caring for her husband. Her husband had been a vital member of their church. This caregiver was faithful in coming to the support group meetings. She often shared how much she missed attending her church service. She missed her circle meetings and the fellowship with other women. She and her husband had been members of the church choir and enjoyed singing each Sunday morning. She missed seeing her church friends and missed seeing her husband’s church friends. I will never forget at one of the support group meetings her breaking down with tears in her eyes as she questioned why they no longer come around.
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the choir had gone and sang for this couple. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the women of the circle had visited this caregiver? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if one of the deacons of the church came and sat with her husband so she could have attended the church service or their Sunday school class members come and have the Sunday school lesson in the caregiver’s home? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the church family had been educated about this disease and knew what to expect when they visited. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the couple was taken out for Sunday lunch at the local restaurant? I could go on and on, to make a point do not forget about the families in your church family that live with Alzheimer’s disease. Be creative and innovative church family if the member cannot come to worship, you take the worship to them.
Caregivers, remember those three deep breaths. When you have times of pure exasperation in your caregiving role those three deep breaths are absolutely necessary. Let your friends know and church family know when you need help. If you do not tell them they may never know how they can help. Hope you have a “Best Day Ever”.
Lesia Henderson is a Positive Approach to Care Independent Trainer and Sampson County Department of Aging Family Caregiver Support Specialist.