Dementia support programs to start

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By Correne Martin

Riding the emotional roller coaster of having someone in the family with a memory impairment is stressful, to put it mildly. With the numbers of people facing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia  increasing, and the stigma still existing, more support groups and social gatherings like memory cafés are materializing in communities everywhere.

Prairie du Chien is offering three supportive programs, starting this fall, for all area residents dealing with cognitive disorders, and their loved ones. These free offerings are through the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin and coordinated by new Dementia Outreach Specialist Heather Moore. 

1.) The first is Crossing Bridges, an educational discussion group for people with mild memory issues and their families. Every Tuesday, Oct. 9-30, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Café Hope/Unity Adult Day Care, 120 N. Beaumont Rd., the group will meet to learn coping skills, enhance family communication and provide guidance toward developing future plans. There will be two topics each time and then time for dialogue.

Prior to joining, a casual interview with Moore is required. This allows her to understand a short history of the person’s diagnosis and determine whether or not the group is a good fit for them. Contact her at (608) 723-4288 to set this up. 

As Crossing Bridges attendees progress through their journeys, this service will transform into Learning Among Friends, which will meet only monthly, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., the second Tuesday of the month at the same location.

2.) The Memory Café is a social gathering for people with memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s or other dementia. This will be at Hoffman Hall, starting Nov. 20, on the third Tuesday of the month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Each month, it will feature a social presentation and brain-stimulating activity, such as picture sharing, singalongs, poetry, art, puzzle piecing, yoga, visiting with youth, cookie frosting, etc.

3.) A Caregiver Support Group, also at Hoffman Hall, the fourth Tuesday of each month starting Nov. 27, rounds out the trio of programs. These groups will meet from 10 to 11:30 a.m. as well. The gatherings are for family, friends and other people who care for a loved one with a chronic illness. This will be a time to focus on daily living, behaviors and communication and share tips, ask questions, learn problem-solving techniques, discover you’re not alone and simply find respite. 

Though the Caregiver Support Group does not offer respite at this time, Unity Adult Day Care will provide it at a discount rate, at the center’s downtown Prairie du Chien location. 

“I love my support groups. We laugh. We cry. We have our ups and downs throughout the whole time but we leave feeling better,” Moore said. “People love continuity and seeing the same face. They don’t want to repeat their story over and over to new people. Every month, things change and new questions arise. They enjoy coming for that security and support system.”

This all started, in part, thanks to one local woman who, for eight years, took her husband twice a month to La Crosse for a support group. She knew there were others too starting a journey with dementia. When this was recognized by the ADAW, it served as a catalyst to make these opportunities happen in Crawford County. 

From these three programs, Moore hopes to gain additional perspective about what kinds of further Alzheimer’s and dementia education needs to be implemented in the area, whether it’s the ABCs (the basics) or advanced-stage supportive services. 

The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance has developed this lineup as a result of goals created by the Crawford County Dementia Care Network (formerly Dementia Task Force). This entity consists of health professionals from the Aging and Disability Resource Center, the veterans administration office, Lori Knapp Companies, Crossing Rivers Health, Prairie Maison, etc. The network meets the first Tuesday every month at the Crawford County Administration Building at 10 a.m. and has been instrumental in a “train the trainer” service, which educates local business leaders who then return to their offices/stores to coach colleagues on interacting with dementia-afflicted customers and handling related situations.

Moore said the Memory Café could use volunteers to help assist with activities or to present a program that would appeal to this generation. “The more people we get involved, the better for all,” she noted. “It would be a good way for young kids to get volunteer hours.”

She said each group will meet whether there are two or 20 people. Residents who have lost loved ones are also encouraged to attend, as the programs are good for grief support and because they can serve the purpose of sharing their knowledge with others. 

“No one should have to feel isolated,” Moore stated. “It’s can be so beneficial to seek support and resources, to share and listen to other people’s experiences. It’s part of loving and taking care of someone.”

Moore is available to area residents who may desire personal care consultations in person or over the phone. She’s also willing to plan free family educational programs with health care organizations, their staff, patients and families, or even churches, schools and civic organizations. She’s coordinated “Boost Your Brain Health” classes and talked with students of all ages about Alzheimer’s and dementia. (She recommends the book, “What’s Happening to Grandpa,” by Maria Schriver, as a resource.)

For more information or to reach Moore at the ADAW Helpline, call (608) 723-4288. 

Through the alliance, Moore is one of 10 dementia outreach specialists covering 15 counties across Wisconsin. She is assigned to Crawford, Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties.

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