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Dave Dawson: New Alzheimer's caregivers support group starting in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Journal-Courier - 6/15/2024

Jun. 13—Because one woman saw a vacuum that needed to be filled, a new support group for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease is starting in Jacksonville.

Bonnie Megehe, a native of Pike County, moved to Jacksonville four years ago from Petersburg, where she led a similar group.

"I have done this before and also worked in long-term care," said Megehe, who has been trained as a facilitator through the Alzheimer's Association. "I thought there might be such a group in the area and couldn't find one. I offered to lead a group if there wasn't one."

The association backed her idea, but she needed a meeting place. That dilemma was quickly solved when she contacted the Rev. Tim Kruzan at City Church.

Not only did Kruzan offer space to the group, but those interested in the group can call the church at 217-245-9197 to contact Megehe. Information about the group also is available by calling the Alzheimer's Association at 800-272-3900 or visiting alz.org/illinois.

The new Jacksonville support group will begin meeting at 2 p.m. the fourth Thursday of each month, beginning June 27, at City Church, 129 E. Vandalia Road, South Jacksonville.

"We will try to meet with any caregivers in the community who want to find support, talk to one another, or find resources," Megehe said.

The group is affiliated with the Alzheimer's Association, but the group is for anyone who is caring for someone suffering from various diseases of the brain, Megehe said.

Dementia is a term used to designate brain diseases that progressively and permanently undermine cognitive function and behavior to the point where the individual no longer is able to carry out customary activities at work or home, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Alzheimer's disease is one of many forms of dementia and the most common dementia seen in old age. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disease, according to IDPH.

The new group is designed to help caregivers develop a support system; exchange practical information on challenges and viable solutions; talk through issues and ways of coping; share feelings, needs and concerns; and learn about community resources for all kinds of dementia.

"Of course, I don't have all the answers, but I can lead people in the right direction to find them if I don't know something," Megehe said. "Just listening to one another can be a huge help. What worked for one person might work for someone else."

Part of its purpose is simply to be there, she said.

"This group is a way to let them know they are not alone, and other people are going through the same things they are," she said. "I don't expect a huge crowd but, if there is, we will break into smaller groups. Ideally, 10 to 12 people would be a good size."

The group is open to anyone.

"Anyone in community is welcome," Megehe said. "City Church is just facilitating and letting us use their phone number. There has been interest already. A spouse who is a caregiver called me the other day and wanted to know more about it."

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(c)2024 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.)

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