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Program offers support for Alzheimer caregivers, family

Date: 12/5/2014

WESTFIELD – The Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association will host a free program, “Caregiver Stress,” on Dec. 11 in Westfield.

The program is designed for families and friends taking care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Melissa Grenier, a program coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, said that caregivers often show symptoms of “caregiver burnout,” such as depression and sleeplessness.

Grenier said that most of the time, the caregivers do not make the connection between these symptoms and the stress of taking care of a family member.

“The basis of this is to help folks understand that how they are feeling is normal. I go through a checklist, and people will raise their hands,” Grenier said. “People don’t realize that their symptoms are related to stress.”

Addressing that there is a certain level of stress that comes along with providing for someone with dementia is the first part. The second, Grenier said, is letting people know that they do not have to be in the role of caretaker every second of every day.

“It gives people permission to take a break. It’s not being selfish,” Grenier said.

Grenier said that caregivers deserve as much of a chance for rest as anyone else but feel guilty for wanting it.

Though Grenier said that the program is more concrete than a support group, she said participants still find a connection with others who understand.

“People walk away feeling supported,” Grenier said. “They recognize the incredible risk of health problems if they let their caregiver stress run wild.”

The chapter’s public relations coordinator, Ella Schwotzer, said that having this is crucial, especially this time of year.

“It is important to recognize that this is a significant thing that caregivers experience, especially around the holidays,” Schwotzer said. “There is added stress.”

Even on days when programs such as this one are not being offered, Schwotzer said that the Alzheimer’s Association is there to help.

“There is a common bond between caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association is there to let them know they’re not alone,” Schwotzer said.

Grenier echoed the sentiments.

“It’s a place where people can honor the important work that they are doing because it is very important,” Grenier said.

The “Caregiver Stress” program will take place from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Governor’s Center at 66 Broad St. To register or get more information, call 800-272-3900.