Range Respite looks to establish new program

By Kelly Grinsteinner

Editor

HIBBING — An organization known for shining a light on the difficulties faced by caregivers in our area is ready to start a new program.

Range Respite is currently in search of people in the early stages of memory loss and their care partners to form a “club” of sorts.

“Over the past few weeks three Range Respite staff members and a volunteer were trained to facilitate the Memory Club program,” said Nancy Dougherty, executive director of Range Respite. “Up until now, this has only been offered in the Twin Cities and Duluth. We are eager to make it available in our area.”

A 10-week program developed by the Alzheimer’s Association, the Memory Club is geared toward people in the early stages of memory loss and their caregiver.

“Many families report that meeting others in the same situation is helpful in moving forward with their lives after diagnosis,” reads the Alzheimer’s Association website. “The Memory Club is designed to meet the needs of both the person with memory loss and a family member or friend.”

The Memory Club is designed to provide a safe environment to learn more about the disease, to be able to share experiences and ask questions, and provide an opportunity to develop friendships and talk with others about the experience of memory loss.

During each two-hour session, one half is devoted to topics that address the entire group, and the second hour is spent in private peer groups — one for people with memory loss and one for their partners.

“And as you might know, support groups are mutual help groups usually focused on caregivers in order to help them develop coping methods and encourage them to maintain their personal, physical and emotional health, as well as optimally care for the person with dementia,” said Harry Grinage, lead caregiver consultant at Range Respite. “And they’re generally open to new members at all times.”

But the Memory Club isn’t just another support group.

“What’s different about Memory Club is the strict affiliation with the Alzheimer’s Association and the unique combination of a support group of persons with early memory issues running in tandem with a support group of their caregivers,” said Grinage.

People diagnosed with dementia and their partners have both common and unique questions and needs. This program includes perspective from both parties.

The end goal is an education about and understanding of dementia. Some of the topics covered include:

• understanding the diagnosis

• legal and financial considerations

• increasing dependence versus the need for independence

• effects on family

• and exploring feelings of loss and sadness

A typical Memory Club is composed of minimum of four volunteer “dyads” and a maximum of 12, according to Grinage. A “dyad” is defined as a group of two — the care partner and the person with early stage dementia.

“This is possible because early stage persons can still participate in decision-making,” he added.

The Memory Club has several advantages and benefits to a program for both the person with early stage dementia and the care partner.

“At some point, those with early dementia may begin to feel disadvantaged. Without a safe and supportive environment, important questions often go unasked: ‘Am I the only one who is having this much trouble and anxiety? Why do I feel incompetent in some areas of my life and capable on others?,’” said Grinage. “On the other hand, care partners look for a supportive environment in which they can meet with a group of their peers and have their questions answered, what to expect as symptoms worsen.”

Memory Club — as an early stage intervention group — can provide a forum for informed and empathetic sharing, education and support, he added.

“As is usually the case, no one understands what the person with dementia or the care partners is going through better than someone who is sharing the experience,” explained Grinage. “ … Also, keeping the Memory Club time-limited and closed, families know what to expect. They understand the goals of the group and are aware of its structure. As a result, the families feel a sense of control and inclusion.”

There are currently five Memory Clubs in Minnesota. Establishing an Iron Range Club would be the sixth in the state and the second in St. Louis County.

“Sometimes, we here in the northern part of the county are underserved given our semi-rural geography and despite the active nature of our many support groups,” said Grinage. “With the formation of this intervention group, we will provide a link to the Alzheimer’s Association for those in communities that may not otherwise get connected and deliver quality to those in need of services.”

Range Respite doesn’t have a firm start date in place, but the first session will be scheduled as soon as they have enough participants.

Dougherty said the most challenging part will be getting the appropriate participants, as those in later stages of dementia do not qualify.

“We need to reach people early,” she said. “There is a very quick and easy screening process for acceptance into the program.”

Dougherty said Range Respite is excited at the potential of the Memory Club program.

“It is a major commitment on our part, and we are going to do everything we can to see that it succeeds,” she said.

For more information, to register or volunteer, call Range Respite at (218) 749-5051 and ask for Harry or email him at hgrinage@rangerespite.org. They are also seeking a sponsor to help with administrative expenses.

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Memory Club Goals

The goals of the Memory Club are to provide:

• a safe environment to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and to be able to share experiences and ask questions.

• an opportunity to develop friendships and talk with others about the experience of memory loss.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

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