By Lynette Carrington
Some families have to deal with the devastation that a spouse or loved one is living with dementia or Alzheimer's. The physical duties of caring for someone with memory loss can be demanding and the emotional toll it takes is often far worse. Circle of Friends in Mesa holds free monthly meetings in conjunction with Banner Alzheimer's Institute that brings memory caregivers together. The next meeting takes place on August 18.
During the meetings, caregivers can share their stories and get solid tips on ways to better work with or deal with a loved one battling a memory loss disease. Joyce Brimhall has worked in the field of aging for 30 years and is a clinical social worker and therapist with Integrated Mental Health Associates in Scottsdale and a volunteer with Banner Health who is co-facilitator the Circle of Friends group meetings. Brimhall has been anxious to head up a support group of this kind and has long been passionate about the area of memory loss and memory loss care. "The main reason people come is for survival skills so they don't feel alone," states Brimhall who has been leading group meetings since early 2015. "People take information and learn more about the disease process, but more than that, they come for the emotional support of their everyday challenges with their loved ones. It's amazing to watch people come together and support one another with what they've learned and how they've done it."
The support group is designed to help care partners solve problems and discuss concerns in a supportive setting. Discussions are initiated by care partners and supplemented with occasional formal presentations on relevant topics. But of particular note is that no two memory loss patients are exactly alike. "People progress at different levels and that's the challenge for family caregivers... not knowing," explains Brimhall. This is one reason that the meetings are so important. Meetings provide the experiences of many and serve as insight on what to expect and strategies of how to work with ailing loved ones.
"One of the main transitions that I see as a group leader is how people make that transition from trying to control a situation and trying to make things happen because that's what they believe makes a day better," says Brimhall. "But when they make that transition from trying to be in control to being on a journey with their loved one, it is amazing to see that transformation." Communications will typically get better and tough situations can become a bit more tolerable.
Meetings don't follow a hard format. Everyone is introduced and what is said in the Circle of Friends meetings stays there. "It's an open group and anyone can come for any of the meetings and we do have guest speakers," states Brimhall.
Circle of Friends Meeting Dates are 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.-
• August 18
• September 15
• October 20
• November 17
• December 15
The Circle of Friends free meetings take place at Fellowship Square Mesa at 6945 E. Main St., Building 4, Second Floor in the Acacia Room. Registration is not required and drop-ins are always welcome. For additional information call (602) 839-6850 or visit www.banneralz.org for additional care and support services for those living with or caring for those with memory loss diseases.