You just can’t change some of the circumstances you find yourself in as a family caregiver for a loved one who has dementia.
Maybe it’s your Mom who absolutely refuses to take a shower no matter how many times you ask her. She tells you she did (and you know she didn’t) and it’s a war of attrition trying to make it happen.
Or maybe it’s your Dad. He seems to go from completely calm to yelling at the top of his lungs in an instant. You can’t figure out why he does it and you have no idea how to make it better. It’s exhausting and frustrating.
Maybe it’s your siblings. They live out of state and even when they are around, they are utterly uninterested in sharing any of the responsibilities of caregiving. You can’t reliably depend on them to give you some respite.
It’s important to know that these frustrations are completely understandable and typical. The stress, exhaustion, the lack of sleep.
It's not easy. But luckily, you're not alone. There are great resources in Wake County where family caregivers can find support when taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's and Dementia.
What do dementia support groups provide?
If you have found yourself in a similar scenario as the one mentioned above, dementia caregiver support groups can provide an outlet for sharing any concerns, problems, and positive experiences you have had. The group members are dealing with or have dealt with situations very similar to yours.
This video from the University of California, San Francisco is a great example of what you can expect from a meeting. If you're on the fence on attending a meeting, we highly encourage you watch the whole video:
The benefits of attending a support group:
You feel less lonely and isolated when you relate to other members and their experiences
You are relieved when you tell others the struggles you're going through
You can gain a sense of empowerment by learning new ways to confront your challenges
You get a better understanding of your situation by receiving feedback from others
You build confidence and a sense of purpose by helping the group
"One of the things that I find really wonderful is how much affection or love there is between people. If you read the papers, you'd never get that sense...but when you go to these meetings and you hear about the people, how they give of themselves to take care of someone else..."
Family caregiving can cause a lot of strain and stress over time. Your entire identity can get wrapped up in the role and demands. Without consistent support, your own health may be compromised in the long-term.
Seek help! The resources in this blog are local to Wake County and eager to help you if you're struggling to care for a loved one with dementia.
Organizations that provide support groups for dementia caregivers
The Dementia Alliance of NC focuses their efforts locally and offer insight, compassionate support and assistance to those who are living with or caring for individuals throughout all stages and types of dementia.
They provide caregiving support, respite coordination, community outreach, and many other helpful services for dementia caregivers.
In their words, the mission of a caregiver support group:
A caregiver support group can act as a positive outlet providing caregivers a regular time for social interaction outside of the home. The groups offer a safe place where any negative emotions about caregiving can be expressed and validated (like anger, frustration and grief), helping participants feel like they are NOT alone.
Support groups also help caregivers maintain balance by doing something for themselves instead of always caring for their loved one.
Caregivers can gather ideas on how others deal with common challenges of caring for a loved one during each of the stages of dementia, and have the opportunity to help others who are new to caregiving by offering tips on what has and hasn’t worked well for them.
In addition, many groups offer an educational component with expert advice on caregiving topics.
The Alzheimer's Association is a national voluntary organization that provides care, support, and research through chapters across the country.
The Eastern North Carolina chapter provides support groups for Alzheimer's and dementia, educational resources, and advocates for research and public policy initiatives for the 51 NC counties it serves, including Wake County.
The chapter provides an events calendar on its web site for caregiver support groups in Wake County.
As described by the Alzheimer's Association:
Support groups create a safe, confidential, supportive environment or community and a chance for participants to develop informal mutual support and social relationships. They also educate and inform participants about dementia and help participants develop methods and skills to solve problems.
Project C.A.R.E. (Caregiver Alternatives to Running on Empty) is the only state funded, dementia specific support program for individuals who directly care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. Project C.A.R.E. is a coordinated delivery system that is responsive to the needs, values and preferences of unpaid family caregivers.
While the office and support group meetings are in Durham, the Central branch in North Carolina provides support for families in Wake County and 18 other counties in its region.
Dealing with Dementia is a hard thing. It breaks your heart to see or experience a loved one afflicted by this terrible disease and decline. Know that inside they are the person you love and admire.
We hope the information and videos provided to you give you the courage and inspiration to seek out a support group. Some good rules of thumb we have embraced in our own personal lives and home care lives at Aware Senior Care:
“You can’t effectively take care of a loved one if you are not taking care of yourself"
“Seeking out help is a strength, not a weakness”
If you are a caregiver for a loved one with Dementia, you are not alone nor do you need to be alone. There are great people in our community here in Wake County.
Do you have a resource you'd like to add to this guide? Get in touch with Kyle.