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Monthly date may help dementia carers cope better

English-language support group meets regularly in the Aude

A new English-language support group for people caring for someone with dementia has been set up in Limoux, Aude. Its organiser Vicky McLean says a growing number of English-speaking families are finding themselves in this situation.

Mrs McLean, a former nurse and social services care manager with years of experience in caring for people with dementia, ran a UK family support group. She said: “I looked into setting up a group about seven years ago but there did not seem to be a need then.

“However, I think more and more people are staying here now, perhaps because it is too expensive to go back when they have health problems. At our first meeting we had five people, and we would be pleased if there is anyone else who would like to join us.”

Giving the opportunity to talk to others in the same situation as themselves, the group aims to meet monthly. “We cannot meet more often as we realise it is difficult for people to leave the person they are caring for but it does seem to help.

“Carers can, for example, unburden themselves of negative feelings and find they are not alone in feeling that way, which can be reassuring. They can also share practical and day-to-day advice and ideas.”

Language is a potential problem for English-speaking patients in a foreign country as it is known that even if a person has been well integrated and has spoken a second language fluently, this is one of the faculties they are likely to lose.

“The carers who came to our meeting are all coping on their own at present but I can see there could be difficulties for anyone needing a professional carer. It is not just language; when you speak to a person with dementia you also need to be able to pick up on their cultural references, perhaps a TV programme they watched years ago, in order to communicate effectively.

“It is much more satisfactory to have a person from your own country as a carer. If there are enough of us, maybe we can group together and find an experienced or qualified British carer.”

It is hoped to share practical advice on rights and aid in France and those at the first meeting agreed the medical services were excellent with quick diagnoses and helpful and sympathetic doctors.

However, the day-to-day burden is enormous, as Mrs McLean knows well: “When you work in this sector it is exhausting, but you have days off and it is not your loved one you are looking after. When you are on your own at home it is emotionally draining and this could be a way of easing the pressure for carers.”

The next meeting is planned for upstairs at Bar Le Commerce, Place de la République, Limoux, on Decem­ber 14. Contact Mrs McLean on 06 26 80 72 06 for information.

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