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Offering Help for Those with the Toughest Job

Even at the first meeting of a new support group for those helping older adults, it was obvious the challenges are often overwhelming: Telling an older loved one they can no longer drive or must move to a nursing home, trying to coordinate family support that may be scattered across the country, and even finding a few spare moments to care for oneself.

“A big challenge is giving him space but still caring and helping,” a Kearney man said about his father-in-law who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “You try to find a balance, but it’s never easy.”

The dialog was part of a new Older Adult Caregiver Support Group recently launched by Tri-County Mental Health Services. Led by Older Adult Educator Becky Franklin, LPC, the group met for the first time at the Woodneath Library Center in Kansas City, North. Additional meetings are being planned.

Franklin noted the group was organized in response to a growing need. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those 65 and older numbered 41.5 million in 2012 and, today, one in three Americans is 50 or older. Though often invisible in communities like the Northland, thousands of families provide either full- or part-time care for an older adult, or others whose illness or disability requires assistance. The challenges can be immense, especially without help.

“We are all touched by this,” Franklin said. “Almost every family has someone in a caregiver role.” Even those who provide support from a distance can face stress.

Dianna Englander of the Shepherd Center said caregivers often face stress that can make their job difficult or impossible, even beyond the sometimes backbreaking, around the clock responsibilities. “A lot of times, caregivers feel isolated,” she noted. “It’s really nice and helpful to just talk to others. You don’t feel like your alone and you can pick up ideas.”

Teresa Fricke of the Midwest Alcohol and Drug Program said advice from other caregivers is often invaluable. “It can be hard when you’re emotionally involve,” she said. “Just sharing ideas with others who face the same challenges can help.” She also noted that those caring for loved ones with chronic diseases or other issues face similar challenges.

Franklin said the group is designed to promote those supports. She and Tri-County also offer a wide range of group presentations, counseling and more. “The idea is to equip caregivers in practical ways,” she said.

Some solutions are creative. The Kearney man noted his father-in-law with Alzheimer’s still wants to drive his old truck. Despite promising not to, he’d been discovered attempting to use a key that had been filed down.

“It can feel like you’re working against them,” Franklin concluded. “It can feel like a power struggle at times.”

The next Older Adult Caregiver Support meeting will be at the Woodneath Library Center, 8900 N.E. Flintlock Rd., Kansas City, Mo., 64157, on Thursday, Nov. 17 from 9:30-10:30 am. For more information, call (816) 628-007 or visit www.tri-countymhs.org.

Content courtesy Dale Garrison of DGInform.com.


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