By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN If you are one of the 15.7 million Americans caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, you know that it’s not an easy task.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers often report high levels of stress, as the job requires a great deal of compassion, patience, dependability, and attentiveness.
Fortunately, a new support group at St. Mary’s Care Center is offering help and resources for caregivers in Winsted and the surrounding communities.
“We want to focus on the caregiver. . . I just think it’s been a need for a long, long time,” said Michele Muller, therapeutic recreation manager at St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted.
The group plans to meet every other month. Everyone is welcome, and there is no charge to attend.
Future meetings will feature educational speakers, as well as time to ask questions and share advice.
“We want to get some experts involved,” Muller said, explaining that she hopes the group will give families a better understanding of memory loss.
Muller commented that there are many types of dementia, and there is still much to be discovered. In general, dementia refers to physical changes in the brain that significantly interfere with memory and other mental ability.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Brain changes typically include protein fragment deposits, twisted protein strands, and nerve cell damage.
Dementia may also result from blood vessel problems, fluid buildup, gene defects, low thiamine levels, and other abnormalities in the brain.
Memory loss is one of the early symptoms of dementia. People may call things by the wrong name, have trouble following a familiar recipe, or forget where they are or how they got there.
At St. Mary’s Care Center, the memory loss area currently has about 26 residents. When a loved one has dementia, family members often try to care for them at home as long as possible, Muller said. However, if safety becomes a concern, the person may benefit from round-the-clock care.
No matter what stage of dementia a family member may be facing, the new support group at St. Mary’s aims to be a way for caregivers to network and share what has worked for them. Muller said they are also hoping to have a free library with books about dementia.
“We’re open to ideas and thoughts,” Muller said, adding that they are also looking for volunteers to help with the group.
To learn more, contact Muller at (320) 485-3154.