By RENEE FITE
When loved ones become ill for an extended time, or age makes them dependent on full-time care, a family member may choose to provide that at home.
It is often a kindness to take care of a loved one at home when they develop Alzheimer’s/dementia, or even convalescing from a long-term injury, but even the best of intentions can be strained after months or years of care.
A support/discussion group that meets once a month can offer caregivers the opportunity to share their concerns, ask questions and just discuss their situation and find out how others cope.
The Eastern Oklahoma Development District Agea Agency on Aging provides the monthly Caregiver Help and Information Program at Wisdom Keepers to enhance and empower any caregiver. Their goal is to help caregivers fully understand the disease process and its effect on behavior and attitude of the person they’re caring for. There are no income guidelines for their programs.
Anyone who is a caregiver can attend, said Program Director Stacy Williamson.
“I love working with the seniors and being able to help people,” Williamson said, “and getting to connect with the seniors in seven counties.”
The monthly meetings held in Adair, Cherokee, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okmulgee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties offer different education topics and can help connect caregivers to state, county and community resources, agencies and non-profits.
Educational topics range from long-term care ombudsman, stress management, infection control in the home, fall prevention, fire prevention, depression, nutrition, anger and how to avoid burning out.
In January, the topic will be “Caring for the Caregiver.”
“We spark up conversation, but mostly they’re happy to talk about their current situation, or whatever they went through in the last month,” she said. “They can relate to each other’s situations. Sometimes it’s sharing how to cope with a dad who gets angry or relate to other family members who want to assist.”
It’s not always the same group of people who attend, she said. And it’s usually a small group.
“Caregivers are free to interact and speak about what’s on their mind if they have something to say to get off their mind,” Williamson said.
In December the topic was holiday stress busters.
“When all the family comes in the for holidays, caregivers may need to learn how to delegate work to family members who visit, like asking Aunt Sue to go to the store, or Uncle Bob to sit with the person cared for while the caregiver takes a nap,” said Williamson.
Another benefit provided through the agency is respite.
Funds are available for caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who qualify. Every three months, a caregiver can get respite, $250 to give the caregiver a break and pay a friend or family member to provide care for a recipient while the caregiver does something else. To qualify, the recipient must age 60 or older, meet two activities such as needs care bathing, or transferring from bed to chair, for example.
Area Agency on Aging Director Sharon Rider and Caregiver Help and Information Program Director Stacy Williamson available to do training sessions on different topics to groups and organizations.
The Caregivers Support Group, Caregiver Help and Information program meets the first Friday of the month at 2 p.m. at Wisdom Keepers, 1286 W. Fourth St., on the second floor. For information, call the Senior Info Line at (800) 211-2116.