Meet our volunteer facilitators
Most of our caregiver support groups are facilitated by amazing volunteers. We wanted to introduce you to a few of them, as they discuss what they enjoy about facilitating support groups and pass along their tips for caregivers.
“The best part of facilitating is the company I keep. I am surrounded by heroes wearing invisible capes that would say ‘vigilant daughter,’ ‘fearless wife,’ ‘silent but strong son’ or simply ‘devoted husband.’ I am so inspired by each of them.” – Linda Baker
Linda has facilitated our Yuba/Sutter caregiver support group since it started over two years ago. “I recalled how important monthly caregiver meetings were to my sister in Texas as she lovingly navigated this disease with her husband,” Linda shared. “How could I say no?
Linda passed along a tip that came from one of her group members: if your loved one is not in a long-term care setting, but you expect them to move there as the next step, start looking at options early. If you wait until the move is imminent it will be overwhelming.
When she isn’t volunteering, Linda’s favorite way to spend time is enjoying her 6 grandchildren and spoiling her rescue dog.
“When a loving moment presents itself, breathe, be present and soak it in. It will help you get through the more difficult moments.” – Stefanie Gomez
One of our newer volunteers, Stefanie started facilitating her group in April of 2020. She decided to become a facilitator because “I wanted to be a part of supporting caregivers and giving them a safe place to speak their mind, free of judgement.”
She enjoys watching the caregivers grow and find their internal strength through being part of the group. “Connection is important,” Stefanie shared, “no matter how small or big the group is, helping even one person makes a difference.”
In her spare time, Stefanie loves to spend time with her family and walk her dogs, who she says “teach unconditional love.”
“You’re not alone in this journey. Take care of yourself both emotionally and physically. You must be healthy so that you can be there for your loved one. Build support around you to help you through this caregiving journey because you can’t do it alone.” – Mitzi Kuwatani
Mitzi has been facilitating our caregiver support group in Sonoma for over 4 years. She volunteers in memory of her father, who lived with Alzheimer’s.
“My father was the kindest, nicest, most giving person I know,” shared Mitzi “and with my desire to give back to the community, I decided to honor his memory by volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association.” Besides her father, Mitzi’s grandfather and uncle also had Alzheimer’s and Mitzi cared for her uncle.
“I have grown from this experience,” reflected Mitzi. “No one person has all the answers, but the group works together to help resolve issues and find some relief as they go through this situation together. The Alzheimer’s Association is a good source of resources for individual help as well.”
When she’s not facilitating the group, Mitzi enjoys the outdoors, traveling and exploring new places.
“The most rewarding thing about being a facilitator is getting to know the families’ stories and being able to make a positive difference in their lives.” – Juliet Lucero, RN, BSN, ACM-RN
Juliet is an RN Case Manager at Kaiser Permanente who also volunteers as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator. She started facilitating our caregiver support group in Modesto earlier this year.
Juliet told us about her facilitator experience: “I have learned the challenges that many people go through due to being faced with serious illnesses. I have also learned that kindness, no matter in what way or form, can make a world of difference in the lives of people.
“If there’s any tip that I can share with caregivers, it is to know that their well being is as important as the lives of those they care for.”
In her free time, Juliet enjoys spending time with her daughter and giving back to the community.
“My favorite tip is the ‘ARE’ word. To communicate and care for a loved one more effectively, caregivers should try not to: Argue, Reason, or Explain. They should try to: Accept, Relax and Enjoy.- Cathy Maupin
After several years attending a support group for adult children who were caregivers, in 2010 Cathy was invited to facilitate the group. “I hadn’t thought about facilitating until I was asked,” Cathy said.
“Because I was a caregiver and had listened to other caregivers for several years, I was excited to share what I had learned. I really wanted to educate, to inform, to provide a safe space to laugh and cry about our experiences. I hoped to inspire others as they had inspired me.
“I am surrounded by such beautiful angels who sacrifice so much to take care of loved ones. They are selfless, kind, loving and helpful. They share their experiences, their tears, their frustrations, their ideas…and especially their laughter.
“Alzheimer’s caregivers have a unique bond with each other because caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is unlike any other type of caregiving.”
Cathy enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. She also loves music and reading.
“There is a feeling of great satisfaction when you can bring people together to provide reassurance and confidence to each other as they face the challenges of caregiving.” – Charlie Niemeyer
Charlie has been facilitating our caregiver support group in Cupertino for over 20 years! With a degree in Social Science/Gerontology and an Activity Certificate, Charlie worked as a Program Director in Day Programs and in an Alzheimer’s residential care home.
“While I enjoyed working with clients, I found that helping their families was equally important,” said Charlie. “So, I became a co-facilitator with a wonderful mentor, Sue Alvey.
“It never grows old. Each person living with Alzheimers is different and each caregiver presents a new puzzle, too. I learn something new at every meeting, too!”
Now retired, Charlie enjoys time with her children and grandchildren, as well as caring for her mother, who lives with dementia.
“It is always satisfying to hear from a support group member that the group was helpful in some way taking care of their loved one.” – Partha Parthasarathy
Partha has been volunteering as a caregiver support group facilitator for six years, four years in Livermore and two years in Martinez. He started volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association after he lost his mother to dementia.
“Helping people in need is always gratifying,” shares Parthy. “I fully appreciate what caregivers go through everyday after my own personal experience.”
When he’s not volunteering, Partha enjoys reading, especially historical fiction and non-fiction.
“The caregivers are loving, dedicated family members who want the best for their loved ones – and their support for one another within the group is amazing.” – Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose has been facilitating our caregiver support group in Folsom for just over a year. She first got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association by participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s with her family, in honor of her mother, Anna Mae and Anna Mae’s siblings who had Alzheimer’s.
After she retired, Lisa wanted to get more involved and stepped up to volunteer as a facilitator. Lisa has been impressed with the level of support that the caregivers provide for each other.
“The members support one another so much and offer great suggestions. Several have exchanged numbers outside of the group and call to check in on one another, expanding their circle of support.”
Lisa also encourages caregivers to explore the resources on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website (alz.org) or call the 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) to talk directly to a professional for further assistance.
When not volunteering (and outside of the pandemic times), Lisa enjoys traveling, spending time with family, nature photography, caring for her many animals and wine tasting with her husband and friends.
“I wanted to help others whose loved ones had the disease so they did not have to go through what my sister and I went through with our mom. I love helping others especially the new people who are at their wits’ end trying to figure out what to do.” – Barbara Singer
After having been a long distance caregiver for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, Barbara became a volunteer support group facilitator in Minden, NV. “I made a bond with the others in the support group; they became my family. I learned so much from them and they made me feel that I was not alone and what I was going through was not unusual.”
Barbara is always impressed by the compassion group members share. Recently a support group participant responded to a new group member who didn’t have any family in the area: “Don’t worry. You now have a family who understands what you are going through and we are here to support and help you.”
Outside of volunteering, Barbara enjoys puzzles (her dining room table is covered), walking and reading.
“Do not feel you need to share or comment if you’re not ready to. Sometimes you just need the company. Should you want to share, sometimes you just need the ears.” Theresa facilitates support groups that normally meet in Carson City and Reno.
Theresa’s professional experience led her to volunteer. “Working for an agency as an in-home caregiver, I witnessed the difficult task at hand for the families caring for their loved ones,” Theresa said. “I wanted to do something to help them in their journey.
“I have a special place in my heart for family caregivers as well as the Alzheimer’s Association and all the wonderful staff. I am always supported and made to feel appreciated on this road together to find an end to this devastating disease.”
Theresa loves spending time with family. She also enjoys traveling with three of her high school girlfriends of over 50 years.
Thank you to all of our incredible support group facilitators for the difference that you make in the lives of so many families. All of our support groups are currently meeting online or by phone. To find a support group that fits your schedule, call us 24/7 at 800.272.3900 or visit tinyurl.com/CGSGFlyers.
If you would like to learn more about volunteering as a support group facilitator or in another role, visit alz.org/norcal/volunteer.