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Caring for Dementia Caregivers

Laura Himmelstein, Clinical Social Worker

August 28, 2019

Caring for Dementia Caregivers

Gathering with other caregivers regularly can improve your overall wellbeing – even if you only sit and listen.

While being a caregiver to a loved one with dementia, it is important to know that you are not alone. Half of all people with dementia are cared for by family members and friends. And we know the amount of time and commitment this demands of them – typically between 21 to 60 hours a week.

Managing the ever-changing world of someone with this degenerative condition is often mentally, emotionally and physically draining for caregivers. It’s also extremely socially isolating. Caregiving is a time-consuming and selfless act – and one that often comes with a loss of self-care. Studies show that people who care for others with dementia have higher personal medical costs, visit doctors more often, and take more medications than caregivers of those with different types of illnesses.

Bringing caregivers together in a supportive and informative setting that offers resources, guidance and the chance to share challenges and experiences is one way to counteract some of these outcomes. Support groups significantly improve the quality of life for dementia caregivers, by being a source of information and advice, and by empowering them in their duties. Offering a form of respite, support groups help caregivers feel they are carrying less of a burden, as well as improve their overall wellbeing.

Yet, studies show that only 5 to 14 percent of people caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s use these groups.

Caregivers are already time burdened and may feel that this is just “one more thing to do.” They may not be able to find someone to be with their loved one if they attend, or they may feel that it’s futile anyway. Many people express that they are just “not sharers.” But listening is also participating. When you are a caregiver, self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. Even small moments are helpful.

White Plains Hospital is committed to providing the guidance and support our community needs to care for a spouse, partner, parent or adult child for the best quality of life for all. The group I run is open to anyone who is caring for a friend or relative who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or anyone who is concerned their loved one is showing signs of the progressive illness.

Gathering monthly, we explore the joys, problems and pitfalls of caregiving for someone with dementia. We offer education, emotional support, coping strategies, resources and a safe and welcoming place to share your concerns and feelings. If you are currently caring for a loved one with dementia, I hope you will consider joining us!

The next meeting is September 20 from 11 a.m. to noon at White Plains Hospital, 5th floor, CCS Conference Room 5A. Future meetings are October 18, November 15 and December 20.

To reserve a spot, or for questions about the support group, please call (914) 681-2721.