Wyoming Dementia Together invites caregivers to join a community of professionals and fellow caregivers
◆ The program is designed to connect caregivers with education, resources and a support group.
Wyoming Dementia Together is a free program provided by the Wyoming Center of Aging to caregivers and family members of individuals living with dementia or dementia-related disease.
“The journey of caregiving can be taxing and difficult. There is a lot to navigate. The idea behind all of this is that we want to provide support and education – it’s not just a support group and it’s not just education – it’s a hybrid,” Sabine Schenk told SVI. Schenk serves as the Senior Project Coordinator with the Wyoming Center for Aging. “We wanted to reach out to caregivers all across Wyoming because there are very few resources available to family caregivers.”
Literature explaining the program states, “By participating in this network, caregivers will increase their knowledge of dementia and how to support a loved one, increase utilization of community resources and strengthen their support network, and learn how to manage stress and challenging situations.”
The objective of the program is to empower caregivers so that they can be proactive in their service rather than reactive. WyCOA wants to help caregivers establish resilience and have discussions with professionals and other caregivers in a safe environment where they can open up about their experiences and find fresh ideas, education and support when they are feeling discouraged or frightened, or when there are important decisions to be made with their loved ones.
“We have found in our research in interviewing caregivers that, often times, people don’t know what is available in their community,” explained Schenk. “We are trying to connect them with each other in their community and connect them to the resources in their community.”
To participate in the discussions, caregivers need to reach out to WyCOA and complete a one-time registration process, which includes a consent form. The program leadership team is passionate about helping people and about keeping participant information private. After registration is complete, each participant receives access to the live discussion link, direct contact information for Schenk, and a personally guided tutorial by phone about how to access the link and other resources. Schenk is dedicated to ensuring that participants feel known and comfortable using the resources and technology that is involved.
“I like to know what kind of caregivers we are serving,” explained Schenk. “Are they reserved, outgoing, intimidated, uncertain? I want to make sure that if they have their own technology, we assist them in testing it so that they know how to get on and participate or how to mute themselves. It’s very individualized and very welcoming. It was really important to all of us on the team that we provide an environment that is personalized. All of our participants have my personal cell phone number so that if there are any questions or concerns or they need additional support, they can call me, and I can then connect them to either resources in their immediate environment or to our professional expert team who can take it from there, depending on what the needs are.”
If caregivers do not have access to their own technology for attending sessions, WyCOA has other organizations that are collaborating with the team to help provide technology or host participants at various community locations.
The leadership team that guides this program includes six highly qualified and experienced individuals who are passionately invested in providing support and resources to individuals at a local level. Five professionals and one caregiver work together to ensure that each individual who registers for the program finds the answers and support they seek.
Caregivers who have attended the sessions give highly positive feedback. They feel more confident in the face of their challenges, and they are more compassionate with themselves on their caregiving journey. The program helps them to establish realistic expectations as they navigate challenging situations and work with others who are involved with caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers who register and join the discussions are always grateful that they chose to become involved – even when they initially thought they didn’t need the support.
Discussion sessions take place twice a month on Wednesday mornings through an online meeting platform. Participants are not required to attend every session but are invited to attend any sessions that will cover information that they feel is relevant to their very personal needs. Topics for each discussion are determined in advance by feedback from participants and what they want to learn or need to discuss in a safe environment.
To begin your registration, call 307-766-2829 or email email@example.com.