ACHE: A support group for adult caregivers

They are the sandwich generation, people who find themselves caring for elderly parents as well as children.

And sometimes the sandwich seems less like a simple peanut butter and jelly and more like one of those gastronomic monsters from a Manhattan deli.

The responsibilities can pile on quickly, leaving caregivers confused, frustrated, depressed, angry, sad, and just plain overwhelmed.

It is important for them to know, however, that they are not alone.

There is a group of those who care for elderly and infirm parents, as well as those who find themselves caring for two generations, who want to get together every third Thursday at noon for lunch and/or conversation at the Allegheny Community Center. They call the get-togethers ACHE, an acronym for Adult Children Helping Everyone that also alludes to the emotional suffering that caregivers face.

Whether it is navigating the labyrinth of government programs intended to provide assistance to the elderly or simply tending to a loved-one who is declining in dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, the informal sessions are intended to provide a forum in which experiences and suggestions can be shared.

Gary Lester, executive director of Family Services of Warren County, and Farley Wright, director of the Warren County Area Agency on Aging, know first-hand the extent of the problems facing caregivers.

They started a support group for adult caregivers about a year ago and want to resurrect the effort.

They believe there is plenty of interest, given the shear numbers of elderly people in Warren County who rely on relatives for their well-being.

“I’ve been talking to people – colleagues and friends – and talked to Farley about it,” Lester said. “We had a few meetings last year and we thought we’d like to start it again.”

“The thing you find is that some people have problems and some people have answers,” he said, noting that for many in the caregiver role, finding answers can be difficult.

The emotional toll can be terrible as children watch their parents take a downhill path in life, whether physically or mentally.

The ACHE format is simple: People with similar responsibilities and circumstances related to adult caregiving simply get together once a month to talk. There is no formal agenda, just the sharing of experiences, the airing of problems related to the whole gamut of challenges faced by caregivers, with questions, suggestions, and the opportunity to unload some of the emotional baggage and frustration.

As Lester noted, whenever people who share common concerns get together, it’s not hard to start a conversation.

The first meeting of the informal group is planned for Jan. 17.