Steamboat support groups offer help for caregivers of dementia patients | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat support groups offer help for caregivers of dementia patients

Teresa Ristow

— After moving to Steamboat in the early 2000s and seeing the need, geriatric social worker Barbara Bronner began a support group for the caregivers of those suffering from dementia.

More than 10 years later, Bronner is reaching out to the community to see if more caregivers are interested in participating in a duo of confidential, safe support groups she now manages as part of the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

"Friends can offer sympathy, but in groups like these, there's lots of empathy," said Bronner, who has helped care for a relative with dementia in the past in addition to professionally working with dementia patients for more than 20 years.

A monthly support group for all caregivers of those with dementia takes place the first Tuesday of each month at Rollingstone Respite House, 1500 Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs.

A newer group specifically for spouses of those with dementia has begun meeting twice each month and will meet next at 2 p.m. Jan. 6 at Rollingstone Respite.

Each meeting lasts about one hour and 15 minutes and allows participants to freely discuss issues they might be having or respond to material Bronner brings to the meetings that may spark discussion.

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"You can say what's on your mind, and it's a non-judgmental group," Bronner said.

The group sizes have fluctuated throughout the years and are fairly small now, Bronner said, so she's seeking more interested caregivers to participate, if they are out there.

"I want to get the word out and make sure we aren't missing anyone," she said.

Most current participants are caregivers of those with Alzheimer's, though caregivers of those with any form of dementia are welcome, Bronner said.

According to the Alzheimer's Assocation, Alzheimer's is a form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, with symptoms typically getting worse with time. The disease is the most common form of dementia, which is the overall term for any type of mental decline severe enough to interfere with daily life.

A support group for spouses addresses their specific needs opposed to other caregivers.

"So many of the issues are the same for anyone involved, but for spouses, there are other issues," Bronner said. "To go from being a partner to a caregiver is a huge emotional and physical stress."

Bronner emphasized that the sessions are confidential and honest.

"There's a perception that this is a safe place," she said. "People say that being with others is helpful and reassuring. It's a place where people can feel safe to laugh about things, and cry."

For more information about the support groups, call Bronner at 970-879-8942.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow