Caring for caregivers

Alzheimer’s support groups provide empathy and encouragement

— Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s isn’t an easy responsibility, but there are others ready to provide compassion and encouragement through sharing experiences.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York offers support groups at more than 30 locations across 12 counties to help care-giving partners and individuals with early stage Alzheimer’s or others forms of dementia. The support groups are designed to provide emotional, educational and social support for caregivers through regularly scheduled meetings. Groups typically meet monthly, with some meeting twice a month, and trained staff or volunteers facilitate discussions.

Jason Lee, community service representative at Home Instead Senior Care, facilitated his first group Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Kingsway Community’s Village Apartments in Schenectady. The group meets monthly every third Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“You can just talk about personal conflicts, concerns and problems with your loved ones dealing with early stage dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Lee said. “I just kind of move the conversation, and then people share stories.”

Lee said the groups often discuss how to better care for loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The learning experience often provides insight not found in textbooks or through browsing online.

Talking about frustrations and challenges might seem wrong to people at first, but Lee said it is important to share experiences.

“What people wind up telling me is, ‘Man, I didn’t realize I could do this,’” Lee said. “I think people don’t realize they can actually get that weight off their shoulders about discussing their trials and tribulations of the stressors they have.”

His mother, Eileen, has come up with her own techniques to solve issues dealing with her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease.

For instance, Eileen will lock one of her arms around her husband at night so she would awaken if he were going to get up in the middle of the night. Sometimes Lee’s father would be downstairs and have no recollection of how he got there or what he was doing.

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