Virtual support groups provide a lifeline

Published On: October 21st, 2021Categories: Stories
Leslie and Leo on vacation

Virtual Support groups provide a lifeline
for local families like Leslie & Leo

“He’s a NASA engineer and he couldn’t draw a clock,” Leslie recalled.

Before Alzheimer’s, Leslie’s husband, Leo, was a larger-than-life person. He was smart, athletic, outgoing, and fearless. As a retired aerospace engineer, he “got me to do things I wouldn’t have done,” she said. Then things changed. Leo started becoming timid and losing his language skills. “I can’t pinpoint a day or even what it was, but he just wasn’t the same,” she said.

In early 2020, Leo’s health began to quickly decline physically, so Leslie moved them to a more accessible home. Shortly after, Los Angeles and the rest of the country faced the COVID-19 lockdown. Leslie is a psychiatrist and has experience caring for someone with dementia — her mother had frontotemporal dementia – but despite being a doctor, she still felt unsure of what to do. A new home, Leo’s declining health, and isolation; it was a lot for one person.

Then someone gave Leslie a card for Alzheimer’s Los Angeles. In response to the pandemic, Alzheimer’s LA was offering virtual support groups for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and their caregivers, family, and friends.

At first, she bristled at the idea. “I don’t know if I can tolerate hearing the tragedy in other people’s lives,” she thought, given what she and her family were going through. But Leslie gave it a chance, and she said it’s been a saving grace.

Leslie described the Alzheimer’s LA support group as “a safe haven.” She is fortunate to have supportive friends, “but unless you’ve experienced this, you just can’t know. The support group is really wonderful.”

While Leslie and Leo have many good days, there are still many difficult ones. Thankfully, Alzheimer’s LA is just a phone call away. When Leo recently became paranoid and yearned to return to their former home, Leslie called our Helpline and was given concrete suggestions of things she could do to help.

“It can be incredibly overwhelming and is a very long journey,” she said. “But I made a promise to Leo — I would keep him home as long as I can.” With help from Alzheimer’s LA, “I honor that promise.”

photos of Leslie and Leo snow skiing and on vacation

Before COVID-19, feelings of stress, isolation, and the intensity of 24/7 care were not uncommon for caregivers like Leslie. But the pandemic further compounded them. That’s where virtual support groups at Alzheimer’s LA have been an integral lifeline for so many.

Thanks to the generous support of our community, Alzheimer’s LA provided 37 virtual support groups during the first half of this year. These groups meet regularly and include support groups for young adult caregivers, those living long distance or caring for someone in long-term care facilities, as well as African American male caregivers and LGBTQ+ caregivers. We tailor our programs and services to meet the unique needs of those we serve — helping them feel less isolated and more supported.

Until there’s a cure, we’ll provide the care.

Donate today and make an impact in the lives of families like Leslie and Leo.

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