Support group for caregivers in Cayuga County now offers teleconferencing

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The Cayuga County Office for the Aging now offers a caregiver support program, which is now able to provide support through teleconferencing.

The program is a service that provides an outlet for those who are the primary caretakers of their elderly or ill loved ones. Caregivers are able to gather once a month in Auburn, Moravia or Weedsport to discuss different circumstances or issues they are experiencing while caring for their loved ones.

Aging services specialist Corinne Ryan orchestrates the group meetings in Moravia and Auburn.

“We do educational pieces. We talk about their situation and share stories. They basically provide each other with an outlet to relieve stress. We talk about the situation and what’s going on, and they give each other ideas. It works really well,” said Ryan.

She allows the group to lead the discussion, speaking about topics such as the behaviors mom or dad or their loved ones exhibit. Ryan will then give different examples or ideas of ways to cope with the behavior. She said people do learn from the groups, but mostly come to de-stress and just talk.

“When you get up in the morning, you treat it like a job. There’s a book, “The 36-Hour Day,” and basically that describes the life of a caregiver. It’s 24/7, no relief. Primarily they are the ones taking care of the loved one. They are the ones taking care of lunch, activities, making sure they get to the doctor’s office. There’s a lot to it,” said Ryan.

Caregivers can call the office for the aging in order to express interest in the support groups. But Ryan said most of the time people will just show up. They walk in and sit down and start talking, she said. Ryan attends each group meeting in case someone does show up unannounced. She facilitates the conversation when needed and provides clarity and advice, but said the people in the group usually lead the conversation.

The ability to teleconference a group meeting as an alternative to a live meeting came about after six months of Ryan working with the county IT to set up a phone system.

“It’s another outlet because some people can’t get out. If they do and are able to be relieved of that duty for a little while the last thing they want to do is come to a room and sit when they feel responsible for doing their errands or getting groceries or whatever else needs to be done. Or just de-stress in another way. So I decided that we should try to do a teleconference support group,” said Ryan.

How it Works

People should call in to the office if they are interested in the teleconference support group. From there, they will be put on a list and a date and time will be set for the conference. On that date Ryan will call each member who has expressed interest in the group and put them on hold until each person has been called. While on hold they are able to speak with each other until the meeting commences. Up to eight people can participate in the phone conference.

“What we find is that people don’t come in because they’re embarrassed. They might be shy, and have a hard time sitting in a group situation. I see that this may be beneficial because they’re in their own home. They can be involved in the group and also be there for their loved one to make sure they’re okay,” Ryan said.

For more information about the program, call 253-1104.