At Madison Senior Center, the Caregiver Support Group encourages and allows some relief for people who are responsible for the well-being of someone with chronic health concerns. CONTRIBUTED

Madison Senior Center’s Caregiver Support Group gives solace

MADISON – A new service at Madison Senior Center or MSC will boost morale of people who are caring for someone who is recuperating from injury or is chronically ill.

“The Caregiver Support Group is a great way for City of Madison residents to realize they are not alone. The group creates a safe space for sharing stories and experiences only another person on the same journey can understand,” Center Director Levoneia Ayers said.

Caregiving’s demands can cause emotional and physical stress, even exhaustion. However, hope does exist.

“This stage may be one of the most difficult for some, but knowing there are other people in all walks of life supporting family, friends and loved ones gives great comfort,” Ayers said. “If you or someone you know needs encouragement, resource information and support while caring for a loved one, this class is for you.”

Jenny Stang, Caregiver Outreach Specialist with Alabama Lifespan Respite, will lead the group’s monthly meetings. The group will meet on Jan. 29 and on Feb. 26 from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. at Madison Senior Center, 1282 Hughes Road.

The idea for the group originated when LaWanda Mason, MSC Activities Coordinator, partnered with Alabama Lifespan Respite for a presentation at the center. “This presentation included all the benefits of participating with Alabama Lifespan Respite, which could lead to a possible, small monetary stipend if qualifications are met,” Ayers said.

Alabama Lifespan Respite Resource Network (Alabama Respite) is a program of United Cerebral Palsy of Huntsville and Tennessee Valley. They strive to increase access to and availability of high-quality respite resources for all Alabama caregivers.

“As a follow-up, LaWanda coordinated the beginning of MSC’s Caregivers Group as an additional outlet for those who do this sometimes-unacknowledged job. LaWanda realized this group would be (an excellent) way to bring together like-minded individuals, including our members and the community at large,” Ayers said.

Everyone can be a caregiver. Caregivers are relatives (spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings), friends, co-workers, neighbors and medical professionals, Ayers said.

Some MSC members are caregivers, even for “‘able buddies,’ a fond name for the person that sits next to you here at MSC,” Ayers said. “We have members receiving special care at home and in facilities.”

A caregiver experiences massive stress and pressure. “You have the responsibility of your own health, which a great deal of the time is neglected to make sure the person you’re caring for receives the best care possible,” Ayers said.

MSC members will receive information about Alabama Respite and the Alabama Cares Program. Respite Care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers to rest, travel or spend time with relatives and friends. Alabama Cares Program’s main objective is relief for caregivers with assistance to help their loved ones remain in the community longer.

To hire a caregiver, the major obstacle is lack of knowledge of available resources and support systems. “Hiring a caregiver isn’t always easy because not only do you look for qualifications but also you want to make sure the individual is a good fit for everyone,” Ayers said.

In-person and virtual training is available. For more information, visit alabamarespite.org.

Center members who plan to attend should register at myactivecenter.com. For more information, call 256-772-6242, or visit Facebook/Madison Senior Center.

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