Supporting Caregivers of People Living with Dementia

 

As the population of Ontario ages, the dementia rate continues to rise sharply. A dementia diagnosis can be very challenging for families to deal with, and often leads to more questions than answers. Although there are plenty of resources available that provide detailed, up-to-date information about dementia and the types of behaviours that can be expected from someone living with dementia, what many caregivers and family members find most helpful is an opportunity to connect with others who are going through a similar experience. That's why Dixon Hall decided to launch a Caregiver Support Group in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto for anyone who is affected by dementia - whether through a family member or friend.

Since March of this year, the group has been meeting once a month, to offer caregivers a safe space to discuss their experiences and challenges. Discussions are guided by a social worker, and the group talks about how to move forward after a loved one first receives a memory loss diagnosis. There is also time allocated for an open-forum discussion, so that members can bring up issues they are struggling with or questions they want to pose to the group. Through these open discussions, members are able to build trust and confide in one another. A common sentiment we hear expressed is the relief caregivers find in no longer feeling alone, and the comfort that comes from recognizing that the frustrations and challenges they feel are shared by other caregivers.

Group members become invaluable supports for one another. Despite differences in their personal situations, caregivers find common ground in discussing different medications, how to deal with professionals in the health care system, and the emotional challenges that arise while providing care.

Val is an attendee of our Caregiver Support group. Her husband Earl, was diagnosed with dementia five years ago. For Val, the Caregiver Support group has been a fantastic resource to connect with others facing similar challenges, as she manages being a primary caregiver for her husband.  It's also an opportunity for her to share her own experiences, which she finds helpful and comforting. Val and Earl live in the same apartment they have for the last 25 years, with their pet cat Molly, thanks in part to Dixon Hall. She's particularly grateful for the wrap-around supports provided through our Senior programs, as Earl also attends our Alzheimer Day program five days per week. While attending the program, Earl socializes with friends through games and activities geared towards seniors with cognitive challenges, and Val has peace of mind knowing that Earl is taken care of. She uses her free time to represent her faith group and pursue her passion of anti-poverty advocacy with interfaith groups in the city.

Our Caregiver Support group meets monthly on Tuesday evenings at our Carlton Campus. If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, we'd love to be part of your support system. Drop a line to intake@dixonhall.org for more information on how you can sign-up and join this supportive community.