New caregiver support group coming to Island

MINDEMOYA—As our population ages, and with the longer lifespans generally, the burden of caring for a loved one suffering from dementia or other memory impairment issues is becoming more common. That can wear a caregiver down, even when shored up by the deep commitment that comes through a lifetime of love. But help is on the way. Thanks to an initiative of the Alzheimer’s Society, there will soon be a new peer-driven support group for those caregivers.

“I was very happy to hear that Alison Sloss of the Alzheimer Society was starting up a support group,” said Linda Peever of Mindemoya. She is currently providing care to her husband Bain who is suffering from the challenges of memory loss. Ms. Peever was in the process of starting her own group when she learned about the Alzheimer Society effort.

Ms. Peever noted that her husband’s “spirit is good,” as is his mobility. “He enjoys his short walks,” she said. But with staffing issues at many agencies, Ms. Peever notes that many people have to struggle along largely alone while waiting on a list for help. “Bain qualifies for 180 hours of support,” she said. “But there is only space for five people and there are 10 currently on the waiting list.” The need for greater funding for support on the Island is clear and she said that she hopes that a greater light will be shone on the issue.

Ms. Peever also said that she and her husband were very interested in the music therapy program being established by Jonathan Poenn of Little Current.

“We have recognized the need for a support group for some time,” said Jessica Bertuzzi, public relations and education supervisor for the Sudbury Manitoulin Azheimer’s Society. “We have a support groups both her in North Bay and Sudbury.”

Those support groups are not limited to those who are caring for loved ones suffering from Azheimer’s or other dementia. “It’s for anyone caring for a person living with memory loss,” said Ms. Bertuzzi. “They don’t have to be diagnosed, just dealing with memory loss.”

“The support groups bring people together to share the experiences, problems and frustrations they may be having,” she said. In addition to discovering that they are not alone, that others are dealing with many of the same issues and learning about how other people handle the challenges, participants will also benefit from the resource person in the group as well.

“Alison Sloss is back from maternity leave now,” noted Ms. Bertuzzi. “While most of the support group activity is peer-driven, Alison will be there to help with best practices and can provide information on the community resources that are available to people. She can assist people with navigating the system and the best first steps to take.”

The Alzheimer’s Society will also be hosting an education day on the Island as part of its Alzheimer’s Month events. “It will take place January 17 at the Mindemoya Community Hall and will start at 10 am, running to 3 pm,” said Ms. Bertuzzi. The education day will consist of three sessions running approximately an hour-and-a-half each. The include ‘What is Dementia,’ ‘Living Safely with Dementia’ and one dealing with all of the projects and services that are available.

“There will be a question and answer opportunity at the end of the third session,” noted Ms. Bertuzzi, “and there will be a lunch served. There is no cost to take part in either the education day or the support group.”

The Azheimer’s Society also hopes to bring the Blue Umbrella program to Manitoulin as well. Under the Blue Umbrella Program, businesses can be certified as “friendly” to those impacted by memory issues such as Alzheimers and other dementias following a simple half-hour training session for staff. “We have had a lot of success with the program here in Sudbury and in North Bay,” said Ms. Bertuzzi. “We are hoping that we can expand it to the Island in the New Year as well.”

“The support group will be meeting at the VON (Victoria Order of Nurses) offices in Mindemoya at 5 Duke Street,” said Ms. Bertuzzi. “They will be taking place on the second last Tuesday of every month from 10 am to 12 pm. There is no cost associated with either event.”