Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

– Mother Teresa

One of my roles at Memory Matters is to facilitate support groups that help caregivers navigate the often long journey of caring for someone with dementia.

Typically, my initial meeting with caregivers involves convincing them just how they can benefit from a caregiver’s support group. We might discuss coping skills, re-direction techniques, self-care or the importance of having time for themselves.

Caregivers can become so involved in being “just a caregiver” that they lose their identity; then, when their loved one passes on, they no longer have a life of their own. They no longer have a group of friends or interests of their own.

Caregivers tell me one of the most difficult, and sad, changes in their relationship with their loved one is the sense of loneliness. Support groups can fill this void and keep someone engaged with others.

Being part of a support system is one of the most successful ways for caregivers to stay healthy. Alzheimer’s is unique in that the progression of the disease is, for the most part, slow. A support group provides people with various views from others who are living in the same world and are experiencing similar issues.

Support groups are important also because they give people a sense that life does go on after a diagnosis. People feel less alone when they are able to discuss their feelings without fear, shame or criticism. Often the conversations give way to humor and laughter – and this is the best medicine for the soul.

Recently, I facilitated our first support group at St. Andrews Parish Hall on Pinckney Colony Road in Bluffton. One person attended the group – one person who needed to talk, to laugh, and to feel less alone.

She was, simply put, delightful! She taught me a few things about acceptance and still finding joy in the life that she and her husband have been dealt. I felt on cloud nine after the meeting. Sometimes I think I get more out of the support groups than the caregivers.

As most of my readers know, I am passionate about support groups and now I have the opportunity to be a part of the Memory Matters programs at St. Andrews. These groups will be offered the second and fourth Tuesday from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit mymemorymatters.org or call us at 843-842-6688.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org; mymemorymatters.org