JFS support groups help caregivers connect

An online lifeline

By Deb Silverthorn
Whether caregiving means hands-on at home or responsibility for loved ones in a residential facility, the pandemic has added layers of stress to an already challenging time.
That’s why Jewish Family Service’s Caregivers’ Support Group, which meets three times monthly, is a virtual exhale.
The group, which meets at 10:30 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month, at noon on the third Tuesday and at 6:45 p.m. on the third Wednesday, offers emotional relief when “it may seem impossible, especially now when some people really can’t get away at all,” said Debi Weiner, JFS senior director of Older Adult Services and facilitator of the third Tuesday meetups.
JFS’ licensed clinical social workers Harriet Cohen and Abby Goodman lead the other groups, with Cohen on Wednesday evening and Goodman on the first Tuesday. The trio — when it is safe to — also lead in-person sessions at Belmont Village Senior Living, at Jewish Family Service and at The Legacy at Willow Bend.
For spouses, adult children and others coping with a loved one requiring long-term care, the programs provide education, resource referrals, interactive discussion and advice on self-care for the caregiver.
“Self-care is vital, absolutely vital,” said Weiner. “We’re all at risk and keeping yourself healthy, and attended to, has to fit into the schedule.”
Topics in the support groups include combating social isolation, increasing rates of depression and and general health concerns.
“Everyone would do better if they could and they’d ‘be’ there, but can’t,” said Cohen. “If you cannot change the circumstances, recognize your limits without guilt. Do what you can and understand that is what you’re able for now.”
The clinicians emphasize technology as a point of connection for loved ones, even though it may be difficult to access for some.
“Technology is a gateway to the world, and we can misinterpret disinterest as inability. It’s not the same,” said Weiner.
In addition to fears of the pandemic, caregivers are dealing with heart attacks, strokes, falls, disease and other conditions that don’t take a recess. With distancing required by most care facilities, the stress is often magnified, Cohen said.
“It’s tough. People are having to place family members — they’re having to figure out transportation and medical appointments in a time when it’s all difficult. For many, it’s about not being able to have your own eyes on your person, and your arms around them, and there’s nothing to say but it’s a very hard time.”
Cohen says the support groups are important because being heard, being able to vent, and finding affirmation and acknowledgment are necessary.
“No one is alone in this,” she said, “and we are here to get through it together.”
The support groups are free but registration is required by emailing agoodman@jfsdallas.org, hcohen@jfsdallas.org or dweiner@jfsdallas.org for Zoom links. For more details, call 972-437-9950 or visit jfsdallas.org.

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