Support group cares for caregivers

By AMY JONES / For the Reporter

ALABASTER – Ironically, those who are constant caregivers for loved ones often forget to take care of the most important people — themselves.

Lance Lee, manager of bereavement and volunteer services for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care in Alabaster, said that truth led VITAS officials to work with other Shelby County organizations to start a caregiver support group for those who care for adults with chronic or long-term illnesses.

“The need is very great in Shelby County,” said Lee, who added that there is a caregiver support group in Jefferson County but none in Shelby County of which he knows.

“Typically, just in Alabama, there’s thousands of caregivers,” Lee said. “They’re there 24/7 without a break. They can be physically burned out caring for a loved one. We’re letting them know, ‘Hey, we care about caregivers. There are some resources for you.’”

Meetings are once a month in the North Hall Meeting Room at the Women’s Center at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster. The next meeting is set for Oct. 1 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Lee said those who attend meetings get support from other attendees, as well as learning about resources available to them.

“(You get) that support from others, someone who kind of understands and empathizes with where you are and your experience,” Lee said. “(You also) take a physical break from caregiving. Some of them are going to lunch together afterwards and still sharing with one another. Really, support and education are the two primary purposes.”

Lee said he looks for the support group to grow to include eight to 10 people. It’s best to keep the group small enough where every attendee has a chance to share during meetings, he said.

Lee said he would eventually like to see groups in different parts of Shelby County, such as on U.S. 280. For now, though, officials are invested in seeing the Alabaster group be successful, he said.

“We’re trying to be more preventative and proactive with caregivers learning, growing and understanding they need a break,” he said. “One great analogy that I heard recently is the Delta principle: ‘You have to put your mask on first to help yourself before you help someone else.’ Caregivers tend to not focus on themselves.”

Through the Alabama Cares program, the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging may be able to help some caregivers arrange for care for their loved ones while the caregivers attend the support group meetings, Lee said.

Support group meetings have also been set for Nov. 12 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and Dec. 3 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the North Hall Meeting Room at the Women’s Center at Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

The support group is sponsored by VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, Sunshine Manor Adult Day Care, Shelby Baptist Medical Center and the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging.

For more information on the support group, those interested can call the RSVP line at 670-5770 or at 866-570-2998.