Group Offers Help For Alzheimer’S Caregivers

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A group of dedicated residents are determined to make the Rim Country the premier area for supporting caregivers of patients with dementia in cooperation with the Alzheimer’s Association of Arizona.

The group laid the groundwork several years ago and now the Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group meets at 1 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of the month at the Payson Senior Center.

This year participants organized the Rim Country Forget-Me-Nots support group, which will soon start additional meetings on the second and fourth Thursdays.

The Forget-Me-Nots look for money to provide respite care for caregivers and provide additional education. The group also worked with firefighters and medics to educate them in regard to Alzheimer’s patients. The group met with emergency personnel officials and agreed to raise money to provide medic alert bracelets for patients and caregivers.

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Shirley Grady

“The biggest issue is getting funding for respite care,” said Shirley Grady, who volunteers to facilitate the group.

The group has already collected donations although Forget-Me-Nots. The Rim Country Classic Auto Club gave it $1,000 from the proceeds of the 2013 Beeline Cruise-In and Car Show; the Arizona Family Foundation gave a $5,000 grant; Sculptured Earth Landscapes donated $375; and a participating caregiver gave $75.

The group needs $10,000 to $15,000 annually to provide respite for all participating caregivers of patients with dementia, Grady said

Grady explained most caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients are reluctant to leave their loved one in the care of someone else. “Most think they should do it all, but every caregiver (in the support group) who has lost their loved one has come back and stressed how important it is to have that respite,” Grady said.

As the disease advances, communication with the victim becomes more and more difficult and requires much repetition and second-guessing.

“It becomes terribly frustrating and emotionally and physically tiring,” she said.

Respite care — having a trained professional come into the home and look after the loved one with Alzheimer’s disease — gives the caregiver a break and a chance to relax and recharge, to deal with an unexpected emergency, or maybe have elective out-patient surgery.

Grady said six or seven professionals in the Rim Country offer respite care and both Rim Country Health and Payson Care Center have secure facilities where individuals with dementia issues can stay for as long as needed to give the primary caregiver a crucial break.

She stressed the respite care facilitated by the Forget-Me-Nots is strictly for caregivers of dementia patients. All they need to do is ask for help. “It’s not invasive,” Grady said.

The group also has a wealth of educational material for caregivers, Grady said. The Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group remains a primary resource and helps caregivers vent and learn coping skills.

“One thing we make sure of is that at every meeting they have something they can take home and apply — even if it is just a phone number for a new resource,” Grady said.

The Forget-Me-Nots also want to take advantage of a tool developed by the Alzheimer’s Association. “They have this spread sheet and they have used it to develop a database of medical specialists providing services to dementia patients,” Grady said.

The group will survey doctors and other health care providers to compile a checklist of services needed and available. “It will help us show there is a need in the community for neurologists and geriatric care managers,” Grady said.

The number of people participating in the Alzheimer’s Support Group also demonstrates the need. The support group has been meeting twice a month for two years and around 55 people have participated at one time or another. A core group of 20 to 30 pushed for the additional second support group meetings.

“They said they needed to meet more than twice a month,” Grady said.

The second support group will meet from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the second and fourth Thursdays at the Payson Senior Center, 514 W. Main St., and begins Thursday, Sept. 12. This meeting will provide options for caregivers who need evening meetings.

As with the Wednesday group, participants can talk, share problems and solutions and learn new skills to provide care for their ailing loved ones.

How to help

Donations to the Forget-Me-Nots are always welcome. In honor of National Alzheimer’s Month, a fund-raising walk-a-thon will take place on Saturday, Sept. 21, hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association and Hospice Compassus.

Stop by the Payson Senior Center, 514 W. Main St., to make a donation and a receipt will be provided. Grady said those interested in signing up or donating online can go to www.alz.org and click on “Desert Southwest Chapter.”

Grady became involved in working with Alzheimer’s support groups through her father.

“My mother had two strokes and suffered from vascular dementia. I saw how tired my father was and I recommended we go to a support group,” she said. She was so impressed with how much her father was helped when the opportunity to develop a similar group in the Rim Country came up she reached out to do what she could.

Mary Cailey will facilitate the evening support group. She was a caregiver for a loved one with cancer. When she learned about the need for the second group in Payson, she volunteered to help and took the necessary training two months ago.

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