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Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group To Be Offered At Senior Center



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The Newtown Senior Center, located at 8 Simpson Street, has announced it will be starting a free Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group, for members and nonmembers, this month.

The first public session will take place Wednesday, November 20, from 1 to 2 pm, in the building’s multipurpose room. The support group is scheduled to meet at the same place and time every third Wednesday of each month.

Newtown Senior Center Assistant Director Judy Thomas said she was inspired to add this program after seeing so many caregivers come to her seeking help for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.

“My vision is that this support group will provide hope to others to [reassure] they are not alone in this struggle, also [to raise] awareness to all those who don’t understand the disease…” Ms Thomas sad. “It’s a disease that is truly heartbreaking to watch. My hope is one day there will be a cure.”

Meet The Facilitators

The Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group at the Newtown Senior Center is partnered with Maplewood at Newtown and Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Connecticut.

There are three co-facilitators: Stephanie Cuzino, memory care director of Maplewood at Newtown; Lisa Perelmuter, hospice care consultant for Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Connecticut; and Melissa Wutke, lifestyle director of Maplewood at Newtown.

Each brings a unique background and set of skills that can benefit those who attend the group.

Ms Cuzino has worked exclusively in memory care for roughly five years. She is trained and certified through the Alzheimer’s Association and has experience facilitating other dementia and dementia-related disorder support groups, as well as bereavement groups and support groups focusing on mental health disorders.

“At Maplewood at Newtown, we focus on the whole person, not just their diagnoses. Our emotion-based philosophy of care shifts the focus from what has been lost to the abundance of possibilities that remain for our residents,” Ms Cuzino said.

“I am proud to be an advocate for our friends living with this disease,” she said, “and [I] believe that educating our local community not only about the resources available to them for support, but to hold space for our shared stories, is how we will ultimately reduce stigma and enhance visibility on this critical disease process while building a vibrant community.”

Ms Perelmuter, fellow co-facilitator, has been involved in the geriatric field for more than two decades, having worked in adult day health, assisted living, continuing care retirement communities, and hospice.

She not only has experience with Alzheimer’s disease in her professional career, but also in her home life.

“Personally, I have been involved in caring for my father, who has been diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease,” Ms Perelmuter explained. “This personal experience has allowed me to see the very different perspectives that caregivers have when caring for a loved one with dementia.”

She finds that Alzheimer’s disease affects the person diagnosed, as well as their loved ones, “drastically and completely.”

“I believe that education and training can go a long way to helping caregivers understand how to best deal with their loved ones and the evolving relationship as a family member progresses through the disease,” Ms Perelmuter said. “A [diagnosis] of Alzheimer’s affects every part of a relationship, including plans and dreams for the future, re-framing expectations, etc.”

For the last five years, Ms Wutke, third co-facilitator for the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group, has been providing support and care for residents living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. She has also led grief support groups for residents coping with the loss of fellow residents.

“I have witnessed firsthand the struggle that residents and families go through when they receive a dementia/Alzheimer’s diagnosis…” she said. “It is important for family members and other care partners to know they are not alone and support is available.”

What To Expect

The Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group at the Newtown Senior Center is designed for “any community members who are experiencing a dementia diagnosis through someone they love or care for,” Ms Cuzino said.

Attendees do not have to be a direct caregiver.

The sessions are structured to be informal and allow for a comfortable environment where participants will have the opportunity to share their emotions and experiences in a safe space.

Ms Cuzino assures whatever is shared within the group is completely confidential.

The support group will also provide resources from the Alzheimer’s Association, which will include a 24/7 helpline, educational materials, latest research, and a comprehensive online suite of support.

Speakers will be planned as a direct result of feedback received.

Hope For The Future

Each of the facilitators of the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group seek to have this program make a positive impact in the life of caregivers.

Ms Perelmuter explained, “I hope this group will allow for respite for caregivers. I hope it will serve as a vehicle for caregivers to share strategies for coping and living with those with memory impairments.”

“My hope,” Ms Wutke said, “is to provide education, resources, and support to families so that they can continue to have loving relationships with their loved ones… Being a caregiver is an extremely difficult job that cannot be done alone.”

Ms Cuzino echoed her sentiments, saying, “Our support group offers caregivers a place to share, learn, and feel welcomed… I hope to help people feel comfortable discussing their challenges and bring awareness to this devastating disease process. Caregiving is hard. You are not alone.”

Additional Meetings

For those who may not be able to attend the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group at the Newtown Senior Center on Wednesday afternoons, Maplewood at Newtown will also be offering a monthly Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group.

Starting November 13, the support group will meet at Maplewood at Newtown, 166 Mt Pleasant Road, on the second Wednesday of each month from 6 to 7 pm. For more information, contact Ms Cuzino at newtownmcd@maplewoodsl.com or 203-710-2275.

Also, those who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias themselves are recommended to reach out to Maplewood at Newtown for early onset support groups available in the area.

There are 15 spots available for the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group at the Newtown Senior Center. To register for a spot, contact Judy Thomas at 203-270-4310.

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