I received a comment on my blog asking me to address the issue of support for dementia sufferers and their caregivers. In my case, this subject leads to a Pandora’s box of outcomes, but I will write a bit about my experiences and will be interested to hear about yours.
One day in the doldrums of my early career as a caregiver, I signed up for a support group at a local senior center. Upon arrival at the center that is affiliated with a well-respected medical institution, I found a large, empty auditorium. Within a few moments another woman about my age arrived, also for her first time to the group meeting. Shortly thereafter three other women came into the room, two much older women who had been part of the group for many months and a twenty-something social worker whose task it was to lead the group. We sat down at a table in the back of the auditorium with a few carelessly-placed metal chairs around it and proceeded to give brief introductions as to why we were attending this particular meeting.
The two older women both had husbands suffering from dementia who were also alcoholics. (I was immediately grateful not to have the added stress of alcoholism in my situation.) The other woman attending for the first time was working with a friend who lived an hour away from her who refused to leave her home or seek any additional support services or medical care for her condition. (I immediately felt sorry for her for not having any more control of her caregiving situation than she did.). After our introductions, the young woman in the room, the social worker, stopped talking and kept looking at her watch until our hour of discussion was over.
One of the two older women dominated the conversation and directed most of her comments to the other older woman whom she already knew. Sadly, the husband of the conversation dominator had passed away two months before. I didn’t begrudge her attendance at this meeting because it was apparent she had found some comfort there in the past. What I did find annoying was that she would constantly redirect the conversation back to her situation thereby not allowing the rest of us to get any feedback on our own stories.
By the end of the hour, I felt irritated, amused, and bemused at my efforts in seeking support because I didn’t find any at this meeting. Needless to say, I did not return to this support group. My conclusion was that I needed to find support elsewhere, and my advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar unsupported support situation is to try, try again. There are multiple support opportunities out there, and I have attended other more successful support group meetings. You can, too.
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