After losing her husband to Alzheimer’s Disease, Lamar resident Lillian Norman was determined to be there for others caring for a loved one with dementia. She recently completed training to become a caregivers’ support group facilitator through the area chapter of the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association, and she helped secure a home for the new group at Prowers Medical Center. She is gratified to have the first group scheduled for next Thursday.
“You take on a caregiver role not knowing what to expect and without preparation, and you learn as you go along from other people. That’s why a support group is so valuable,” says Lillian.
No one understands quite like those who are facing the same challenges, and that’s the power of a support group. With Alzheimer’s, not only is there memory loss but there are behavioral changes as well, including decreased judgment, difficulty completing tasks, and withdrawal from activities.
“My husband Fred used to love to read, and that stopped over time. He also loved music and then as the disease advanced he quit enjoying that, too. It’s important to constantly remind yourself that you can’t compare what’s happening now with how it was in the past. You have to meet your loved one where they are in this moment because it can change each day,” Lillian says.
The Alzheimer’s Association encourages people to learn the warning signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias so they can recognize them in their loved ones and seek a diagnosis from a doctor. Early diagnosis allows for access to prescribed medicine, and the chance to enroll in clinical trials and new treatment alternatives. The Alzheimer’s Association provides support, free counseling, information, resources, educational classes, community presentations, and assistance. For more information, contact the Southern Colorado office at 719-544-5720, or call the 24-hour help line at 1-800-272-3900. For more, visit www.alz.org/co.
“The support group is for caregivers, not for those diagnosed. It provides a place for caregivers to talk freely about challenges, share ideas and vent difficult emotions. It’s completely confidential and of course there’s no charge. We’re thrilled that the hospital was so open to hosting it,” says Ann Carter, Regional Director of the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association’s Southern Colorado chapter.
Lillian received training from the Alzheimer’s Association to prepare her to facilitate the group. She attended the caregivers support group in La Junta early on, but as her husband’s disease advanced it became more difficult to get away. Her hope is to someday have a simultaneous activity group for loved ones with Alzheimer’s to make attending the caregivers support group easier.
“It’s true about anticipatory loss, the grief you feel before the loss actually happens. You watch the person you love lose their mind and brain function, and it’s difficult,” Lillian adds.
The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group will meet on the third Thursday of every month at Prowers Medical Center, 401 Kendall Drive, Lamar. The group runs from 11:00 am to Noon in the Education Room at the hospital. For more information, please call Ann Carter at 719-544-5720. If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, consider attending next Thursday, February 16, and finding the support you need to not only take care of your loved one, but to also take care of yourself.