Caregiver support groups help those who are taking care of loved ones

If you are a caregiver and would like to have support from others who are going through a similar situation with caretaking a loved one, there are several places in Allegheny County where you can go to get this support and learn to take good care of yourself, as well.

Plum Community Center
Over at Plum Community Center, the current focus is on enhancing the center’s ongoing caregiver support group, now called The Caring Circle. “The goal of the circle is to encourage caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed, overworked and stressed or who just need to talk with someone who understands,” says program coordinator Maria Schafer. “It provides a sanctuary, as well as a place to learn and grow in your role as a caregiver. In our circle, we say that ‘a well thriving caregiver enhances the quality of life of the individual with the illness’.”

The Caring Circle meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Plum Community Center, located at 499 Center New Texas Road. Light refreshments are served during the circle. On April 18, Kim Dunn from Veterans Resource Solutions will discuss veterans’ benefits and long-term care planning. The center’s admissions coordinator Cheryl Sopcak will also provide information about available respite and daycare services.

A recent attendee of the Caring Circle had this to say about the value of her time with the group: “As I cared for my father for the past several years, the Caring Circle became my support system. I lost my father recently and I have decided to dedicate my time and expertise to the circle and it’s participants into the future, passing on what I have learned and experienced in order to support others going through a similar situation.”

Plum Center also has classes to help caregivers manage stress, including a new yoga class on Mondays that emphasizes breathing techniques and a Tai Chi class every Wednesday that helps increase balance and mobility. To learn more about the Caring Circle, contact Maria Schafer at (412) 795-2330 or mschafer@plumboro.com.

PrimeTime Adult Day Care
PrimeTime Adult Day Care offers an open-to-the-public support group at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month at Christ United Methodist Church, located at 44 Highland Road, PrimeTime Unit B in Bethel Park. “If you are a caregiver, we highly recommend that you get involved for information and consultation so you can have support for what you are going through in your role,” says Mary Ann Weber, director of PrimeTime. “The majority of those coming to the group are caregivers who are dealing with a loved one who has the different forms of dementia but the group is open to anyone who is a caregiver.” There is no need to pre-register.

PrimeTime also offers adult day care to give caregivers respite for a few hours or entire day. Their programs include social activities, meals and general elderly supervision. PrimeTime Adult Day Care is located at 44 Highland Road in Bethel Park. To learn more, call (412) 835-6661 or email primetimeadc@christumc.net.

Agewell Pittsburgh Jewish Family & Community Services
A couple of caregiver support groups are also available through Agewell Pittsburgh and Jewish Family & Community Services’ Caregiver Connection, a licensed nonprofit home care registry serving Allegheny County. The home care registry specializes in providing professional staff and experience to help caregivers find solutions and make decisions related to care for themselves and their loved ones. “We take the worry out of hiring a trusted, responsible and compassionate caregiver,” says Holly Anderson.” 

The support group meets in the South Hills. To learn more, call (412) 422-7200 or visit jfcpgh.org/pghcaregivers.org.

Hope Grows
Hope Grows’ programs are designed to provide options and solutions for caregivers, explains owner Lisa Story. “Our staff is certified to provide counseling, support, respite, and education and training in both one-on-one or group settings, including support groups that encourage caregivers to process their stress in healthy ways and enhance the skills they need to effectively care for their loved ones.”

Hope Grows offers several support groups, including Life During Caregiving, a peer-to-peer support group that meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at the Moon Township Library, and Life After Caregiving, a bereavement and caregiver identity loss peer support group that meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month at John F. Slater Funeral Home in Brentwood. Hope Grows is located at 183 Shafter Road in Moon Township. To learn more, call (412) 369-4673 or email info@hopegrows.net.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers
This class, offered by the Department of Human Services Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, is a great introduction to being in a group setting with other caregivers. “If you like this experience, then you would like being part of a support group and that would be your next step beyond the class,” says Brenda Slagle, caregiver support coordinator for DHS/AAA.

The six sessions of the class includes topics such as Taking Care of Yourself; Identifying and Reducing Personal Stress; Communicating Your Feelings, Needs and Concerns; Communicating in Challenging Situations; Learning from Our Emotions and Mastering Caregiving Decisions.

Learning new communication skills was the most valuable part of the class for retired Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher Carole Malakoff, 73, of the North Side. “My husband is disabled from MS and I wanted to learn more about being a caregiver, so I signed up for the class,” she says. “He gets frustrated because he used to be able to things and all of a sudden he can’t, like button his shirt, tie a tie, or even walk. He sometimes takes his temper out on me. Through the class, I’ve learned that I have to realize he’s not angry with me; he’s just totally frustrated. The class taught me healthy coping skills and how to respond differently. It’s made a big difference in both of our lives.”

For more information about support groups in Allegheny County, check out pages 28-29 of the 2018 Allegheny County Senior Resource Guide. If you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, specific support groups are also available in our area; see page 27 of the Guide for a listing of these groups. The Guide is available online at pittsburghseniornews.com.

By Gina Mazza For Pittsburgh Senior News

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