November is National Family Caregiver Month

Debby Segil, LICSW, who has directed the Family Caregiver Support Program at Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) for nearly 15 years, likes to quote former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who once said:  “There are just four kinds of people in the world:  Those who were caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”  Carter speaks to the growing population of seniors and people with disabilities who are living longer and need care for longer periods of time, many of whom rely on family members and friends to help them remain living independently.

 “Pretty much everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by caregiving,” says Paul T. Crowley, Executive Director of GLSS.  “Our mission is to try to ease the burden and stress felt by caregivers, by providing information, support groups, in-home assessments, training, access to helpful services, and even respite.”  Currently, the program offers multiple support groups in communities served by GLSS—in Lynn, Lynnfield, and Saugus—at different times of the day and even an after-work dinner group to accommodate caregivers’ busy schedules. The program also offers regular trainings and educational programs for caregivers.

In November, the nation focuses on celebrating the roughly 54 million people—or as many as one quarter of American families—who provide care for an older family member, an adult child living with disabilities, or a friend.   The value of those unpaid services is estimated at $216 billion.   Many caregivers are in what is referred to as the ‘sandwich generation’—adult children who are not only working and raising families but also caring for aging parents.  “Caregiving is the hardest job there is,” says Segil’s co-worker, Taylor Lamberta, LCSW.  “It is challenging and frustrating but might be the most important job you ever do.”

The Family Caregiver Support Program at GLSS provides free support to all caregivers but specializes in helping people and families who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 9 people age 65 or older has Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to grow dramatically as the increasing population of baby boomers continues to move into the 65 and older age group.

Last summer, Segil and her co-workers—with support from several community partners—launched  the “In the Moment” Memory Café—a monthly program at the Lynn Museum for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias and their caregivers.  “Caregiving can be very isolating,” Segil notes.  “The Memory Café will provide an opportunity for socialization, networking with others experiencing similar challenges, and a chance for the caregiver and the person they care for to do something together that’s fun and engaging.”   The program will meet on the third Thursday of each month at the Lynn Museum from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 Noon.  Upcoming dates are November 17, December 15, January 19, and February 16.

GLSS has partnered with the Lynn Museum/Lynn Arts, which is providing space and other support for the program; The Kiosk for Living Well, another GLSS program that promotes health and well-being; and DiVirgilio Financial Group, which has generously agreed to sponsor the program.  The Solimine Family and Miasserian and Plunkett, CPAs, have also made donation in support of the program.

The Memory Café is one in a series of steps moving towards what Crowley describes as creating dementia-friendly communities.  “These are places where people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and their caregivers feel supported by their community—whether at a museum, the post office, or the grocery store, or while using transportation to connect with community activities or doctor’s appointments.”

To learn more about the Memory Café or the Family Caregiver Support Program, call 781-586-8540 or e-mail [email protected].

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