After six years of caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease, Debra Tamplain agreed starting a support group for caretakers was important “because it’s not an easy journey.”
When the Alzheimer’s Association Louisiana Chapter contacted her about it, Tamplain readily agreed to serve as the group’s facilitator.
“I just felt it was something to do to help others,” Tamplain said.
The Dementia Caregiver Support Group will hold its first meeting in St. Charles Parish at the St. Charles Parish Hospital’s Pelican Room on Feb. 26. The group will meet every fourth Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Caretakers can use the meeting to vent or talk to others going through the same situation to let them know they’re not all by themselves, Tamplain said.
“It’s a very demanding job and not everybody is able to be a caregiver,” she said. “It’s those special individuals who can do it. It’s stressful.”
Tamplain sought to provide a place where caregivers can learn with people who can support them, which is something she wished she’d had when caring for her own mother.
“You kind of learn through trial and error,” she said. “You learn quick and it was an adventure I never would have thought I was put into.”
In Tamplain’s case, the didn’t want to put her mother in a home so she, her father and part-time help worked as a team to keep her at her home. A part-timer helped them take breaks, which she had to convince her father to take because he felt guilty about leaving his wife. It also allowed Tamplain to take classes on care for dementia patients.
It was fate that she had earlier met a friend who had cared for her mother for 14 years and Tamplain volunteered to help sit with her. It became the basis of knowledge she used to later care for her mother.
“The whole thing is about education and this disease is not going away soon,” she said.
When her own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Tamplain said life changed considerably.
There were days when her father would call saying, “Can you come over? Your mother doesn’t know who I am,” Tamplain said, if this wasn’t hard enough, it got worse. “As the disease progresses, it’s always something different.”
This is where the support group can help a caregiver realize it’s the disease doing these things and the situation gets a lot better, she said. Being prepared helps deal with this, but the group helps with the hurt and loss.
Tamplain lamented of her own situation, “To see her dwindle away … this was just like – wow.”