Caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia can leave caregivers exhausted, overwhelmed, and isolated. But you don’t have to go it alone, says Sallie Carlin, director of memory care at Willow Gardens Memory Care in New Rochelle. Carlin is co-leader of a new Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group hosted at Willow Gardens, located on United Hebrew of New Rochelle’s campus of comprehensive care in Westchester County.
Carlin is an Alzheimer’s Association-trained facilitator of caregiver support groups. She says that caregiver groups allow you to bond and share experiences with others who are going through the same things—even the guilt you may feel after losing your patience with a parent or a spouse affected by dementia.
“You may have said something you regretted to your mother or husband, and wondered how you let yourself do that. In a caregiver group, you can talk about that and be accepted,” says Carlin. “Support groups are confidential. What you say in the group stays in the group.”
Coping skills, and so much more
The caregiver support group meets each month in the Palm Court Room at Willow Gardens Memory Care at 60 Willow Drive in New Rochelle. The group is co-facilitated by an Alzheimer’s Association-trained facilitator. According to Carlin, key benefits of attending a support group include:
- Receiving practical advice
- Learning about community resources
- Improving your coping skills
- Gaining a sense of control over your situation
“Groups offer long-term benefits in the form of supportive relationships, as well as practical tips for immediate use,” Carlin said. For example, she recalled a group discussion on the difficulties of getting someone with Alzheimer’s dressed in the morning. “We talked about providing choices—allowing a parent to choose between two shirts, which isn’t overwhelming but provides a feeling of decision-making power—and members of the group put that into practice right away.”
Never been to a support group? Here’s how it works.
Some may feel apprehension about joining a support group, and that’s understandable, says Carlin. “Sharing what you’re going through with people you’ve just met may feel strange. You don’t have share your story, you can just listen and hear what others have to say.” She advises communicating your preferences with the facilitator beforehand.
A typical meeting may last one to two hours, and may include a sign-in process, introductions, and a topical theme, such as coping with challenging behaviors or dementia treatments. Groups may meet weekly or monthly. Caregivers may find virtual gatherings helpful, as they also offer the opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Not a joiner? Try it out, anyway, says Carlin.
“Being a caregiver is challenging. But you may find that spending time with fellow caregivers gives you the strength to go on.”
Alzheimer’s Association Support Group: What you need to know
Who: Caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia
Where: Willow Gardens Memory Care, 60 Willow Drive, New Rochelle
When: Monthly (call to confirm day)
The Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter program is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the New York State Office for the Aging, the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services and supported in part by a grant from the New York State Department of Health.