Louise Voelker has been searching for a support group for several
years. A family member was diagnosed some time ago, and she is his
primary caregiver, with support from family and friends. She knows
firsthand the stresses most caregivers experience, and she is eager
to be the giver and receiver of the kind of encouragement a support
group can offer.
Voelker works with a nurse, Sheila Bradburn, two days a week.
Bradburn was once the director of an Alzheimer's unit. Together,
Voelker and Bradburn have dreamed of being instrumental in forming a
support group. Until recently, that hope was not encouraged by the
Alzheimer's Association; however, with a recent shift in leadership,
small towns have been given the green light to form their own
Quickly latching on to the news, Bradburn talked to Jennifer
Riedle, a therapist she met at work. Riedle was eager to jump into
the action and has been instrumental in bringing about the group's
formation. At the same time, Elaine Sheaffer, a retired nurse who
has worked extensively with the elderly, volunteered as well.
Individuals who work with memory-loss patients would agree that
their scope of caring goes far beyond simply providing for the needs
of the person with dementia. Family members and friends are the
mainstay of the person diagnosed. The family or friend caregiver has
the daunting task of balancing the spinning plates of the patient's
needs, the needs of the rest of the family and simple day-to-day
duties that still demand attention.
"I feel sincere empathy for the person in that role (of
caregiver), says Riedle. "They experience a great loss watching
someone they love slowly disappear, as changes in daily living
activities, cognition, personality and independence are taken by the
disease process. It's amazing how caregivers balance their life and
the life of their loved one."
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The Alzheimer's Association was
formed in 1980 to provide support for caregivers and family members.
The association has refocused in recent years to encourage the
formation of support groups in more rural areas. The Mount Pulaski
Alzheimer's Support Group is fortunate to be one of these newly
The new group, a joint effort among a number of individuals, will
begin officially this spring. On March 8 at 2 p.m., the Vonderlieth
Foundation will host an event designed to provide support for
caregivers. The program will take place in the Activity Room of
Vonderlieth Living Center, 1120 N. Topper Drive, Mount Pulaski.
Members of the support group will be on hand to meet those
interested in learning more about the group. They will talk to
interested parties about where and when they would be able to meet.
Snacks will be provided and a door prize given away during the
To learn more about the event, call 792-3218 and ask for Jo
[Text from file received from Jo
Hilliard, Vonderlieth Living Center administrator]