Caregivers Roundtable and Support Club

By Sandra Zunino

Caring for an elderly parent or spouse can be challenging. Factor in Alzheimer’s or dementia and there is another level of frustration. Faced with a growing elder population in Maryland’s Mid Shore region, Deborah Cox, RN is heading a Caregivers Roundtable and Support Club to empower and educate eldercare providers.

As part of the Talbot County Mental Health Association’s Elder Care Program, the new support club will hold its first meeting Friday, June 11 at 1:00 p.m. at The Talbot Senior Center located on Brookletts Drive in Easton.

“The point of the support group is to enable caregivers to realize they are not alone in dealing with this issue,” says Deborah, who volunteered to lead the sessions. “We are hoping to be an avenue of support and information.” Deborah has more than 30 years of experience as a nurse practitioner with the last seven and a half years concentrated on the field of geriatrics and long-term care.

As coordinator for the Elder Care Program, Deborah has created a Power Point presentation she developed to help educate people on caring for the elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“There are so many subjects to touch upon,” says Deborah, “medication, diet, sleep-wake cycles, incontinence, falls, safety, socialization, lonely and depressive behaviors.” Deborah says caregivers often feel as if they haven’t met all of their loved ones needs.

“Sometimes when you are taking care of a loved one, there is never enough so there can be all kinds of episodes that occur that can make you feel angry or guilty,” warns Deborah. “You can get caught up in cycles of frustration.” With the support group, caregivers can learn how to tap into positive solutions.

Deborah says the club need not always focus on the somber issues. “We can give each other energy,” she says, “have some fun and laughs.”

“I want the club to be upbeat, empowering, educating and through that, energize people so they walk out feeling relieved that they have some options to try,” she adds.

Deborah was inspired to initiate the club when the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient mentioned she was driving 40 miles to attend a support group in St. Michaels. With the help of the Senior Center, Deborah hopes to achieve a more centrally located environment for support. In addition to the meetings, she says she is also looking into providing a bit of respite for caregivers by allowing them to bring their loved one to the Senior Center for a few hours of socialization or other activities.

After the first meeting, the support club will meet the second Tuesday of every month and run for about an hour depending on the subject covered. Deborah says there would also be opportunities for longer encounters should the topic require more time. Additionally, she would be available after the meeting to speak one-on-one with a club member to address concerns privately. “All issues of confidentially are completely respected,” she says.

Interested participants need only show up. To learn more about the Caregivers Roundtable and Support Club or the Elder Care Program, contact Deborah Cox at the Mental Health Association in Talbot County at 410-822-0444.  For more information about Talbot Senior Center, call 410-822-2869.