Caring for the Caregiver: Grace Place offers training for those who watch over people with dementia

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Robin Dill, author and founder and former director of Grace Arbor in Lawrenceville, Georgia, will lead the Caring for the Caregiver event at Grace Episcopal Church’s Grace Place Aug. 22-23. (courtesy photo)

CULLMAN – Family, friends and loved ones can give much of themselves when caring for people with dementia, but who watches over the caregivers?  For the Cullman area, Grace Episcopal Church’s Grace Place has for months now offered two opportunities a week for caregivers to leave their loved ones in a safe and stimulating environment while they take some needed break time for themselves.  Now, the ministry is taking another step, preparing to host a caregiver training, resource and encouragement event called Caring for the Caregiver on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 22-23.

Grace Place Director, Deacon Jerry Jacob, explained: “The purpose of the Caring for the Caregiver event is twofold: provide information, resources and advice to help caregivers who are taking care of a loved one with memory loss, and, raise community awareness of the prevalence of dementia in our area and the immense responsibilities that places on their caregivers.

“Cullman County has more than 15,000 residents who are aged 65 or older.  That is roughly 18.3 percent of our total population (Source: U.S. Census Bureau as of 7/1/17).  This is the age group who are more prone to develop cognitive issues, i.e., memory loss. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in 10 people, aged 65 and over, will develop some form of dementia.  For us, that translates into at least 1,500 Cullman County residents.

“A caregiver at some point in the process of the disease becomes a 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) attendant for their loved one.  Different people with memory loss progress at different rates. Currently what is known is that dementia may develop undetected and/or undiagnosed for as long as 12 to 20 years.  And, right now, there are no therapies or medications to reverse the effects.

“What is also almost universally accepted is that caregivers are prone to unknowingly sacrifice their own health in trying to care for their loved one.  There is a compelling need to equip family-member caregivers with ways in which they can equip themselves with avenues to find respite.”

Caring for the Caregiver will be led by Robin Dill, founder and former director of Grace Arbor in Lawrenceville, Georgia, a respite day program for people with memory loss.  She has been involved in local and statewide efforts in Georgia to raise awareness of dementia and its effects on sufferers and their caregivers. During the event, she will address common issues family-member caregivers face and possible solutions to those issues.

Dill founded Grace Arbor, a 4 day per week program that targets participants with memory loss, in 2005, serving hundreds of families until she stepped down as director in 2018 to assist churches as they consider respite ministries.  She wrote and published “Walking with Grace” and “Walking with Grace Revised” as manuals to assist in setting up such programs.  She mentors faith organizations who start and provide respite ministries, and is a frequent speaker at local Alzheimer’s support groups and professional conferences.  Dill has also served on the Georgia Task Force for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.

The Tribune spoke with Dill, who shared: “This kind of ministry is a lifeline to families dealing with dementia.  They can be the difference between a caregiver throwing up their hands and saying, ‘I’m done,’ to ‘Okay, I can do this because I’ve got a group of people that are walking this journey with me and supporting me in this stage of the journey.

“I’ve heard that over and over and over: ‘Your ministry is a lifeline.’”

Training events

Dill will be at Grace Place on Tuesday, Aug. 21 to observe and take part in one of the program’s regular meetings.  On Wednesday, Aug. 22, she will offer a four-hour activity training class from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Grace Place volunteers and other interested persons, on principles of dementia and how to conduct activities appropriate for those with memory loss.

Dill described the activity class as a training session, but also said it will be “a time of inspiration for them, to get some really good ideas, and kind of brainstorm more things they can do at their particular facility.”

On Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and Thursday, Aug. 23 from 10 a.m. to noon, Dill will offer caregiver training to give a deeper understanding of dementia and its effects, to help caregivers understand what is happening to their loved ones.  Topics will include behaviors, communication techniques, safety, caregiver stress and how caregivers can take care of themselves, and how caregivers can prepare for the future.

Dill said of dementia respite ministries like Grace Place, “I’m telling you, it’s the best ministry.  It’s a ministry that every community needs. Every church needs to think about being a partner in this type of ministry because it’s so impactful to caregivers and the participants.  They’re having a fun place to go play while their loved ones are getting a break.”

For more information on Robin Dill’s programs, visit https://rdillblogwalkingwithgrace.wordpress.com.  Her “Walking with Grace” books are available through Amazon and other book distributors.

For more information on Grace Place and Cullman’s Caring for the Caregiver event, visit www.facebook.com/305ArnoldStreetNE/, or contact Jacob at dcnjacob@gmail.com, 256-736-4260 or 256-338-6556.

Grace Place asks participants to please RSVP if they plan to attend.

At a glance

Caring for the Caregiver training, resource and support event for caregivers of persons with memory loss

Grace Episcopal Church, 305 Arnold St. NE, Cullman  

These presentations are open to the public FREE OF CHARGE.  

Continuing education credits (CEUs) available to nurses and social workers.

Please RSVP to Jerry Jacob at dcnjacob@gmail.com, 256-736-4260 or 256-338-6556.

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