Left: Lenora Smith Right: Kelly Myers

Left: Lenora Smith Right: Kelly Myers

Michael Mercier / UAH

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, has announced the establishment of a UAH Caregiver Support Group created in a collaborative effort between staff members from Alumni Relations and the College of Nursing faculty. The group aims to meet once a month in the Nursing Building, Room 103A. The group plans to hold each monthly meeting on different times and days to allow caregivers to attend at least every other month.

“We held our kickoff meeting in April,” says Dr. Lenora Smith, an assistant professor in the UAH College of Nursing. “Kelly Myers in Alumni Relations and I, along with the endorsement of the College of Nursing, collaborated to develop this support group for our faculty, staff, students and alumni to provide an outlet for those who might be caring for a loved one.”

The goal of the group is to provide caregiving support and greater understanding about the resources available for UAH students, alumni, faculty and staff who are tasked with this vital responsibility. The first meeting comprised both an in-person session, as well as a virtual opportunity to attend. A link to the recorded file of this meeting can be found at uah.hosted.panopto.com.

The topic of the first meeting explored the ways a caregiver might deal with impatience, as well as financial resource concerns, when working as caregivers of Parkinson’s patients. In the April meeting, two speakers detailed how their loved ones struggled with the disease and how the speakers coped as caregivers. The first speaker suggested finding someone to confide in about the stressors of caregiving. She emphasized that sometimes caregivers have to take on new roles when they realize a loved one is having difficulty remembering what they said or did.

The second speaker is a caregiver of a Parkinson’s patient as well. The first symptom she noticed in her loved one was a sleep disorder, where the patient sometimes acts out his dreams and can be unaware of his surroundings. After seeing her loved one’s personality change and his memory begin to decline, the caregiver learned to cope with the stressors of caregiving through laughter, volunteerism and the assistance of family and friends.

“The Caregivers Support Group was created because there are lots of caregivers out there – formal and informal – who need an outlet to obtain resources, garner support for themselves and to make sure that they are providing the best care possible for their loved one,” Dr. Smith explains. “We started this group on campus to ensure that students, alumni, faculty and staff have an outlet to relieve some of their stress.”

Kelly Myers, Director of Alumni Relations & Special Events Executive Director of the Alumni Association agrees. “So often, alumni benefits are discounts or memberships. While those are useful, a Caregivers Support Group provides necessary resources for our alums who may struggle with caregiving and need support and guidance in their caregiving journey.”

Future topics the group plans to explore include, but are not limited to, caregiver self-care; how to ask for help; Palliative Care; role reversal; conflict with parents/siblings and resources from the Institute for Deaf and Blind. For more information, visit UAH Caregiver Support Group.



Dr. Lenora Smith

Kelly Myers

Russ Nelson