The last few weeks my family has been celebrating different kinds of birthdays. It made me realize how our perspective changes over the years. The younger generation is (mostly) looking forward to celebrating their birthdays with family and friends, getting presents, having cake and ice cream, and maybe even having a party at a special location. On the opposite side of the lifeline, when we are celebrating our parents’ birthdays, we realize they have had countless experiences in their lives, and sometimes we are faced with the reality that they might not even remember many them due to memory problems.
That makes me think of the group I co-facilitate with my colleague Jill Johnson-Young, a dementia support group for family and friends coping with dementia. Every group member can share their journey about taking care of their family member or loved one. I notice when talking to our group members about their different experiences that although there are at least 7 different forms of dementia, often times people have a combination of different forms which makes it a unique experience for everyone. Did you have to re-read that there at least 7 different forms? Most people have heard of Alzheimers, but there is also: Vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, Parkinson’s, Frontotemporal, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and Huntington’s.
For caregivers there are usually some commonalities that we benefit from discussing during group, which might include symptoms of the different forms of dementia (ex. anxiety, loneliness, irritable, forgetfulness, hallucinations). The realization that our loved one is not the same person anymore due to a brain malfunction is a difficult concept and might start a grieving process we did not expect. Studies have proven however that an early grieving process will benefit the caregiver, and will help them cope better after their loved one has passed away. But I am getting ahead of myself.
As a caregiver there are so many things to consider: does our loved one stay at home with us, or do I consider placing them in a memory care facility?How do I choose?How will siblings react? How will siblings support each other (or not)?How can I take care of medical/financial stuff? Have you ever heard of a POLST?(Everyone should get one by the way).How do we respond when our loved one insists in coming home with us?
It’s often helpful to discuss these different questions with people who have experienced this or are on the same road as you are.
Come check out our group, we meet every 3rd Saturday of the month at Pacifica Senior Living, 6280 Clay St, Riverside. You can also find some more info on our facebook page: Riverside California 3rd Saturday Dementia Support Group
Looking forward to meet you at the support group or if you prefer to have a personal meeting, call our office to schedule an appointment: (951) 778-0230.
By: Ilse Aerts, LPC
Any struggles you might have today, you don’t have to conquer them alone. My personal, professional and volunteer experience will help shine a different light on your struggles of grief and loss, parenting struggles, life’s challenges. Coming from a different culture myself, I understand the adjusting challenges you might come across (different rules and expectations, different language,...).
By offering guidance and support, together we can rediscover your own inner strength to work through those challenges.
I look forward to meet people of all cultural background, beliefs and ages on Tuesday and Thursdays. I earned my Master degree in Clinical Psychology from Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
I am a member of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.