Chase Brexton Health Care’s LGBT Health Resource Center

Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating not just to LGBT individuals living with the diagnosis, but to their caregivers and loved ones who face an uncertain future. In an effort to provide resources, counseling and comfort to those affected by Alzheimer’s, the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care will begin a new Alzheimer’s Support Group. The group will meet on the fourth Wednesday of each month beginning April 26th, at Chase Brexton’s Mount Vernon Center (1111 North Charles Street, Baltimore).

We asked Kelli Abbott, community outreach counselor at the LGBT Health Resource Center, to discuss the program and the hope it will offer to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or caring for those who are.

What effects can Alzheimer’s disease have that are unique to the LGBT community?

Kelli Abbott: LGBT individuals facing Alzheimer’s disease, or assisting someone who is, can have difficulty accessing quality health care, finding support, and disclosing their sexuality.  It is important for both the person with Alzheimer’s and their caregiver to seek supportive health care providers. In addition, some LGBT individuals do not have a family of origin present in their lives who can be relied on during difficult times. Also, some may worry about health care providers reacting negatively to their sexual orientation. It is important to find other sources of support as you face the demands of caregiving and daily life.  The Alzheimer’s Association operates a 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 – all calls are confidential.

What aspects of coping with Alzheimer’s disease are hardest for the individual diagnosed with it?

KA: An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be difficult and life-changing, and many affected by the disease fear losing themselves as a person. They may forget basic things such as where they left their keys, or forget long-term memories of family, and they may not be able to do things independently, such as going to the grocery store, paying bills, or walking the dog.  The individual suffering from the disease has to cope with letting others help them in a transition that will never be reversed.

What aspects of the disease are hardest for that person’s friends, family and loved ones?

KA: Caregivers taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease can face a tremendous amount of stress.  Many caregivers suffer from denial and anger, some experience social isolation from friends and activities, and may slowly start to withdraw from their normal routine due to the stress of caring for their loved one. This may also affect their work life, or their own family dynamics. Caregiving is often a full-time and unpaid job for many, can be very exhausting, and may bring on depression and anxiety. Caregivers should seek out help and make time to take care of themselves.

Why did our LGBT Health Resource Center decide to start the new Alzheimer’s Support Group?

KA: We found that some Resource Center clients and others who are part of our SAGECAP program were either caregiving for someone who suffers from dementia, knows someone living with dementia, or are living with it themselves.  The need to expand our caregiving support programs to include a group specifically for Alzheimer’s caregivers and sufferers was clear.

What kinds of support will this new group provide?

KA: This group will provide participants with a safe space, the comfort to speak their minds and concerns, and the opportunity to access valuable information and resources.  The group will include an Alzheimer’s Association member and trainer, along with our SAGECAP program community outreach counselor. The group will reach out to the LGBT community and allies share their experiences with others dealing with similar situations.  The group will be held once a month on every fourth Wednesday beginning April 26; for more information, visit Resource Center.lgbt or call 410-837-2050 x1049.