PLYMOUTH — With the aging of the state’s population, more and more persons are finding themselves providing care for those in need. To provide local caregivers with a forum at which they can express the challenges they face in their particular circumstances, the Plymouth Senior Center is offering a caregivers support group on the third Wednesday of each month, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

The meetings will be in the upstairs conference room of the senior, beginning on Wednesday, June 20.

Caregiving is not restricted to the elderly, but may also include a person of any age with chronic illness, disability, trauma, or combat-related injury. Such “informal” and unpaid caregivers are usually family members who may not even consider themselves to be caregivers, since they regard their service as a natural and normal responsibility of relationship.

Statistics from the National Alliance on Caregiving in 2015 reported that 43.5 million persons in the nation had provided care for an adult or child during the previous year. Of them, 34.2 million had cared for an adult 50 years old or older, and 15.7 million caregivers were caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

Caregivers residing with the person being cared for spend an average of 40-plus hours weekly on caregiving tasks.  The average estimated duration of care is four years. Duties often include feeding, bathing, dressing, grooming, bathing, assistance toileting, researching professional caregiving services and other support, learning about the recipient’s illness, coordinating physician visits, managing finances, shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, and transportation. In addition to the administration of medications, about 46 percent of caregivers are performing some kind of medical and nursing procedures.

Many caregivers feel ill-prepared for their role and have little or no support. That leads to high levels of stress, frustration, anger, guilt, and feeling overwhelmed, drained of energy, and helpless. Increased worry, uncertainty, and loss of attention to their own needs leave 27 percent of caregivers exhausted at the end of the day.

There is no fee and no need to register prior to the support group’s meetings. The group is sponsored by Pemi-Baker Community Health, with Hospice Chaplain Guy Tillson leading the group. Tillson is a former clergyman with a 24-year career in ministry. He holds a license as a clinical mental health counselor in New Hampshire and has worked at agencies in Laconia, Conway, and Wolfeboro for 20 years.

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