Organizations team up to provide support group for carers with dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than six million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. And according to information provided on Caring.com, approximately six thousand Hernando County residents are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, at present, few resources are available for caregivers of patients with this devastating disease.

Thanks to a partnership between United Way and the Dementia Spotlight Foundation, that’s about to change. These two aid agencies are coming together to co-host monthly caregiver support groups, which began August 1 in Hernando County.

The Dementia Spotlight Foundation Caregiver Support Group, in partnership with United Way of Hernando County, will be held at 1 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at 292 Beverly Court in Spring Hill. The next meeting is scheduled for September 4. our entire county,” said Angie Walasek, CEO of United Way of Hernando County. “We are fortunate to have the help of our friend Gary LeBlanc to bring this precious resource back locally.

This support group program, Walasek says, is a response to a vital need recently identified in the Hernando community. “United Way and Dementia Spotlight Foundation host a Dementia Care Seminar each fall (this year will be our 11th). This is specifically for residents caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who are looking for support, resources and hope. We bring everything to them – including trained experts, healthcare providers and services, the sheriff’s office, and provide the platform for caregivers to connect on similar issues (and solutions!),” a- she explained. “At this event, Gary always asks, ‘How many of you are in a support group?’ And to our surprise, there are always a limited number of hands raised. Caregiver health is often overlooked, but necessary. Facilitating support groups gives individuals the opportunity to connect. It is comforting to realize that you are not alone. As community leaders, we are here to advocate and connect individuals to available resources. If the resource doesn’t exist, well that’s where we come in to fill that gap in service.

The Dementia Spotlight Foundation, under the direction of Gary LeBlanc, director of education for the foundation, is contributing to this effort. “The Dementia Spotlight Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that spans Florida and Georgia. We run many educational programs, including training for several first responders, as well as the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office,” LeBlanc said. “We believe that the more education we can provide, the better the quality of life for people with dementia. We also provide free short-term respite care for families with dementia in need. We host weekly online dementia support groups and currently have three in-person support groups in Hernando and Pasco counties.

Walasek says the need in this area is greater than ever. “We are fortunate to work as closely as we do with the Dementia Spotlight Foundation, but there were limited dementia care support services in Hernando County to begin with. Take away AFO and individuals just didn’t know where to go or had to travel out of county to get resources,” she said. “This special population unfortunately continues to grow and there is so much need for education – for caregivers (young and old), for our network of organizations and for our community as a whole. We report people who come to us and we make sure they are personally invited to our annual event, but that’s not enough. They need help and they need it now. Join our localized caregiver support groups starting August 1st.

Those interested in participating in caregiver support groups can find more information by visiting the Dementia Spotlight website at www.DementiaSpotlightFoundation.org. Reserve upcoming band dates which will always be featured on the United Way of Hernando County web calendar www.UnitedWayHernando.org. They can easily register online and reserve their seats by visiting https://dementiaspotlightfoundation.org/dementia-support-groups/.

Virginia S. Braud