In December 2014, a two-part article was published in The Kaweah Commonwealth in advance of the nascent Three Rivers Alzheimer’s (and related dementias) Family Caregiver Support Group, which began meeting in January 2015. Almost three years later, the peer support group, facilitated by Elizabeth Holliday, CMT, continues to be held twice monthly. The group is affiliated with the Alzheimer’s Association, Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter.
The support group is a confidential, safe place for family caregivers of a loved one with dementia to exchange practical information on caregiving challenges and possible solutions; talk through challenges and ways of coping; share feelings, needs, and concerns; and learn about resources in the community.
The local support group is made possible by the generosity of St. Anthony Retreat Center, which generously donates the meeting space. The meetings are free to attend and held the second and fourth Thursdays of every month from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Retreat Center.
Newcomers are welcome, but call in advance — (510) 875-4721 — for a brief telephone assessment and to assure availability.
Here is what some participants have to say about the meetings:
Attending the Three Rivers Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver Support Group allowed me to talk about how profoundly changed my life had become when caregiving for my father, who suffered from dementia. It was such a challenging time, and knowing I had a place to share my experiences — with people who had been in caregiving situations and were currently going through similar experiences — opened me up to hear support and see my situation from different perspectives, which gave me hope.
In turn, I was able to support and help other caregivers, and that gave my life more meaning. The stories certainly vary, but through the sharing of feelings and experiences, we help each other validate and witness this difficult undertaking of caring for a parent, a sibling, or a spouse. It certainly felt less lonely and less overwhelming, which at the very least can make a huge difference. —Support Group Member
Even though I can’t get to the meeting every time, it’s so nice to know there’s a group to validate the difficulties of this role. —Support Group Member
Coming up in the next couple weeks will be articles entitled “Caregiving and the Holiday Season,” by Elizabeth Holliday. Part One will offer tips on how to navigate the family’s holiday traditions while caring for a loved one with dementia.
Part Two will focus on how to communicate with a loved one who has memory impairment during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, as well as other helpful tips and resources.
Elizabeth Holliday, CMT, is a resident of Three Rivers.