Virtual group provides support for Parkinson’s caregivers

Beth Hecht facilitates a support group for caregivers of those with Parkinson’s disease
Beth Hecht facilitates a support group for caregivers of those with Parkinson’s disease (Courtesy of Beth Hecht).

A virtual group is providing support for caregivers of loved ones with Parkinson’s disease.

Jewish Community Services, the Maryland Association for Parkinson Support, LifeBridge Health and the Edward A. Myerberg Center partnered to create this support group, called Care Partner Conversations: When Your Loved One Has Parkinson’s Disease. The group meets on the third Tuesday of every month on Zoom.

Beth Hecht, senior manager of successful aging at JCS, facilitates the group. As a social worker, Hecht works with older adults on a daily basis. She personally knows people who struggle with Parkinson’s and understands the hardships that the whole family faces.

The virtual group started in March with five people, and new participants have joined every month.

This is not the first time a group for caregivers has been started. Years ago, MAPS created a similar support group that met at the Myerberg Center. This group was so successful that MAPS asked JCS if they wanted to help them expand.

Hecht hopes to start in-person meetings in the fall.

Caregivers come to Care Partner Conversations for resources and support. Participants will often share information about doctors and other aid they have found helpful. While Hecht is there to help facilitate the conversation, the group is led by its members.

“It really is a chance for folks to share with each other what is working and what is not working,” Hecht said.

Even though the program only started a few months ago, Hecht can already see progress in the participants who come regularly.

Most people are not sure if they are ready for a group like this and are scared that it might not be the right fit. But once they come, they are all glad they did, Hecht said.

“I already have people thanking me who are very appreciative,” she said.

The support group also gives a space for people to talk freely. While it may be hard to talk to friends or family about struggles, everyone in this group is going through similar things. The group reinforces that people are on the right track and provides emotional comfort to its members.

Outside of the group, the focus is often all on the patient and less on their care provider. A large part of this program is recognizing that the care provider needs to take care of themselves as well so that they don’t burn out, Hecht said.

As for the future of this group, Hecht says it is up to the members to decide what happens next.

“This is their group and I am just with them on their journey,” Hecht said.

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