The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than six million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. And according to information provided at Caring.com, an estimated six thousand Hernando County residents are living with Alzheimer’s disease right now. Yet at this time, few resources are available for the caregivers of patients struggling with this devastating illness.
Thanks to a partnership between United Way and the Dementia Spotlight Foundation, that is about to change. These two help agencies are coming together to co-host monthly Caregiver Support Groups, which kicked off on August 1 in Hernando County.
The Dementia Spotlight Foundation Caregivers Support Group, in partnership with United Way of Hernando County, will take place at 1 pm on the first Monday of every month at 292 Beverly Court in Spring Hill. The next scheduled meeting is for September 4. “After the Alzheimer’s Family Organization closed its doors for good last year, there’s been a gap in services and support for residents caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia – with not one support group being offered throughout our entire county,” explained Angie Walasek, United Way of Hernando County CEO. “We’re blessed with the help from our friend Gary LeBlanc to bring this valuable resource back locally.”
This support group program, says Walasek, is a response to a vital need recently identified in the Hernando community. “United Way and Dementia Spotlight Foundation host a Dementia Care Seminar every fall (this year will be our 11th annual). This is specifically for residents caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia and looking for support, resources, and hope. We bring everything to them – including qualified experts, health vendors and services, the Sheriff’s Office, and provide the platform for caregivers to connect over similar issues (and solutions!)” she explained. “At this event, Gary always asks, ‘How many of you are a part of a support group?’ And to our surprise there are always limited hands raised. The health of the caregiver is often overlooked, but so vitally needed. Facilitating support groups gives individuals the opportunity to connect. There’s comfort in realizing you are not alone. We as community leaders are here to advocate and connect individuals to available resources. If the resource doesn’t exist, well that’s where we come in to bridge that gap in service.”
Aiding in this effort is the Dementia Spotlight Foundation, under the guidance of Gary LeBlanc, the foundation’s education director. “Dementia Spotlight Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that covers Florida and Georgia. We do a lot of educational programs, including multiple 1st responder training, as well as the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office,” said LeBlanc. “We believe the more education we can provide – the better quality of life can be attained for those living with dementia. We also offer free short-term respite care for dementia caring families in need. We host weekly online dementia support groups and currently have three in-person support groups in Hernando and Pasco counties.”
Walasek states that the need in this area is stronger than ever. “We are fortunate enough to work as closely as we do with the Dementia Spotlight Foundation, but there have been limited dementia care support services in Hernando County to begin with. Take away AFO and individuals simply didn’t know where to go, or had to travel out of county for resources,” she said. “This special population unfortunately continues to grow and there is so much needed education – for caregivers (young & elder), for our network of organizations, and for our community as a whole. We flag individuals that come to us and make sure they are personally invited to our annual event, but that’s not enough. They need help and they need it now. Enter our localized Caregivers Support Groups kicking off August 1st.”
Those interested in participating in the Caregiver Support Groups can find more information by visiting Dementia Spotlight’s website at www.DementiaSpotlightFoundation.org. Save the dates for upcoming groups will always be featured on the United Way of Hernando County web calendar www.UnitedWayHernando.org . They can easily register online through and reserve their seats by visiting https://dementiaspotlightfoundation.org/dementia-support-groups/.