People caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease – spouses, relatives or friends – often encounter many serious issues of everyday life. However, they don’t have to face them alone. The Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter offers more than 40 monthly caregiver groups throughout the organization’s 24 county service area.
The groups provide free, convenient and useful information in a comfortable and confidential environment. Linda Pollitz, program manager in the chapter’s Lima office, said, “The stresses on caregivers include getting places on time, the issue of safety versus independence and when to intervene.”
Pollitz also added the caregivers often face questions such as, “How do we convince mom she needs more help? How do we talk to dad about not driving?”
“The caregiver group meetings usually last one to one and a half hours. Attendees have a chance to share and introduce themselves if they want. Others come and just sit and listen, and that’s fine as well. Sometimes there’s a speaker with a short presentation, but we always have time for conversations and questions,” Pollitz said.
Caregiver groups are free and open to the public. Registration is not required. However, it is suggested that those planning to attend contact the facilitator of the intended group the first time to confirm the time, place, and date of the meeting.
“Those who attend and get something out of it may come to the meetings for a couple years. We often hear, ‘Why did I wait so long to come?’ Some people who attend become lifetime friends through a caregiver group, and others continue to attend because they feel they can help others.” Pollitz said, adding, “Sometimes people do not come back, because it is not always the easiest thing to do.”
Ultimately, the decision to attend a support group always remains with the individual. “If someone is thinking about attending, he or she should just come out and try it. Come with someone or come by yourself, or call the caregiver group leaders ahead of time to talk about it. The leaders are people who are trained volunteers and supported throughout the year to facilitate the monthly meetings,” Pollitz said.
Sheri Schliesser, RN, a facilitator of a caregiver group in Defiance County, said participants typically find the information presented very valuable, and they discover that there is a lot to learn. One participant said, “The support of the group gives me the strength to continue.” Another one observed, “I know there are a whole lot of people dealing with this disease who think they can handle it alone, but they really need to be here at a caregiver group...and they don’t even know it.”
Local caregiver support groups include:
Oak Harbor – No set meeting time. Contact facilitator Amy Simkus at 419-239-8235.
Toledo – Third Tuesday of every month at 1:30 p.m., Alzheimer’s Association Wheeling Street Adult Day Center, 131 N. Wheeling St., Suite 2. Contact facilitator Traci Holland at 419-720-4940.
Toledo – For Men Only Group, first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m., Alzheimer’s Association, 2500 North Reynolds Rd. Contact facilitator Bob Hausch at 419-537-1999.
Fremont – Second Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m., Memorial Hospital, 715 South Taft Ave. (Take elevator to first floor; Chestnut Cafe, dining room A). Contact facilitators Mary Arnold and Sara Haaser at 419-332-2589.
Bowling Green – Second Monday of every month at 2:30 p.m., BG Senior Center 305 N. Main St. Contact facilitator David Buenting at 419 806-2039.
Perrysburg – Second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m., Way Public Library, 101 E. Indiana Ave. Contact facilitator Lynn Ritter at 419-537-1999.
Caregiver groups are just one avenue of assistance which the Alzheimer’s Association provides to people. Others include a toll-free 24/7 Helpline, care consultations, educational programs, respite financial services, as well as many more programs and services.
“Our Respite Financial Assistance programs are available to families of persons diagnosed with dementia in all 24 Northwest Ohio counties served by our Chapter. These programs can be of great support to families,” Pollitz said. The respite programs reimburse family caregivers for the cost of in-home respite services. There is an application process for this program and there are some eligibility guidelines.
The Alzheimer’s Association also provides respite for caregivers through its two Adult Day Centers in the Toledo area – the facility at the Chapter’s main office at 2500 North Reynolds Rd. and at 131 North Wheeling St.
For information on the programs and services of the Alzheimer’s Association, visit www.alz.org/nwohio, or call 1-800-272-3900.