Dementia Dialogue Group: A source of support and understanding

Dementia Dialogue support group

Becoming the primary caregiver for a loved one can be an emotional and overwhelming experience. However, with the support and encouragement of those who’ve been there before, it can also be a very rewarding process filled with quality time and cherished memories. We had the opportunity to sit down with Ann* and her family to find out how a dementia support group has made a world of difference for them and ultimately strengthened their relationships.  

When Ann’s mother was first diagnosed with dementia five years ago, she and her family quickly learned how demanding it is to care for a loved one while balancing the other responsibilities of daily life. Ann, her husband and sister were able to split the responsibility of checking on her mother daily for several years, but eventually, it became clear that ensuring her safety required more supervision. The family tried in-home care for a while, but when doctors diagnosed Ann’s mom with Alzheimer’s a year ago, the family decided that a memory care unit would provide her with the best level of care.

“The decision to place her in the memory care unit was excruciating,” Ann said. “My husband and I were the daily caregivers for Mom for many years, and even though she is thriving there now, making that decision was really hard.”

Thousands of families are faced with the same decision each year, trying to meet the needs of their loved ones with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. Feelings of isolation, frustration and burn out are very common among family caregivers. Luckily, Ann found a source of support and understanding in the form of a local Dementia Dialogue Support Group. The support group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at the Parkview Warsaw Center for Healthy Living. Lead by a volunteer facilitator from Real Services of South Bend, the group shares stories, concerns, resources and understanding with one another as they care for loved ones experiencing dementia.

“This group is like family to me. Everyone has been a godsend, especially Karen who is our facilitator,” Ann said. “When we placed Mom in the memory care unit, she took the time to call me and check on how I was doing. She didn’t have to do that, but it’s just the kind of caring person she is.”

The small group is scheduled to meet for 90 minutes, but it’s not uncommon for meetings to run longer because of the warm, welcoming atmosphere that has been created among the members. Meetings have a relaxed format and members keep everything that is shared in confidence. Ann says the group has been a source of strength and support for her and openly sharing concerns with one another helps lighten the load they all carry.

Ann summed up her bittersweet journey as a caregiver in this way, “It’s ironic, but in some ways, I am thankful. We are closer now to Mom than we ever have been, and we share such a special bond with her. I’ll always be thankful for that.”

The Parkview Dementia Dialogue Support Group will meet on Tuesday, December 3, from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Parkview Warsaw Center for Healthy Living, located inside the Parkview Warsaw YMCA at 1305 Mariners Drive, Warsaw, IN 46582. For more information, call the Center at 574-372-5640.

*Ann’s last name has been omitted to protect her privacy. 

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