Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Support groups that phone it in When caregivers can't take a break, telephone support is a lifeline
BY ROBIN ERB, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT -- Some don't have a ride. Others can't find the time or -- as any caregiver of a person with Alzheimer's disease can understand -- can't leave their loved ones alone. Others simply don't have any more energy.
But phone-in support group may offer an answer and serve as a sounding board for those facing the emotional, financial, and physical exhaustion of taking care of someone with Alzheimer's, but who also can't attend face-to-face meetings.
After all, caregiving is exhausting, says Diane Zide, operations director at Botsford Commons Senior Community, a 30-acre, residential community in Farmington Hills, Mich.
"You put that person first. It's exhausting. You don't get rest and recuperation. You are not eating well and sleeping well and you have all this stress," she said.
The call-in line linked David Moore of Harrison Township, Mich., to others who also balance nearly 24-hour caregiving with careers and other commitments.
Moore is a sales director of a publishing company, but his days are punctuated with struggles over the simplest of tasks at home with his 85-year-old mother and her late-stage Alzheimer's disease. He's trying to keep his mother at home, but it's increasingly difficult.
"The other day, I put out this little bowl of fruit and cottage cheese for her and handed her a spoon. I walked out of the room, and when I came back she had left the spoon sitting there and was trying to eat with a pen," Moore says.
He heard about the same bewildering behaviors -- and frustration -- from others in the call-in support group.
"As simplistic as it sounds, it's someone else feeling and sharing your pain. At times, it's so hard to verbalize what takes place," Moore says.
The hourlong sessions are moderated by experts from Senior Helpers, a group that links professional caregivers with seniors, and Botsford Commons, where Zide has led a dementia series for five years, shepherding participants through a yearlong series of workshops once a month exploring dementia and offering coping tips.
Some community members said they wanted to be part of those conversations, but lacked transportation or back-up care for their loved one with dementia. Many also had other responsibilities -- taking care of their children, for example.
Beyond convenience, there's another benefit to a call-in support group.
"On top of everything else, not everybody is comfortable going to a support group and facing a lot of people," says Melanie Semaan, family services manager of the Alzheimer's Association-Greater Michigan Chapter, which co-sponsors the call-in support group as well as about 50 face-to-face support groups throughout metro Detroit.
Both the dementia series and call-in support group are free, but callers to the support group must register in advance to receive a dial-in number for each session.