Building a Support System
Sarah Viola’s personal mission is to help promote the quality of life for both the people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Building a Support System

Sarah Scaled

Sarah Viola

Who is supporting those who provide support to others, especially those who care for a loved one living with dementia? This is the question I asked myself years ago when I devoted my career to serving and supporting those living with dementia and their care providers.

In opening, I want to clarify what the term dementia means to help each reader understand this buzz word. Dementia is simply a term that describes a symptom of other diseases. It refers to when one or more areas of your brain has changed in its function, and this affects your ability to perform day-to-day activities. A fellow therapist once said, “the brain drives the train.” Meaning, any dysfunction in the brain impacts both the person and the individuals around them.

As an occupational therapist, I found it my mission to help people living with dementia because I felt they were at risk of losing their “voice.” I have specialized in the care of those living with dementia for nearly 12 years. Through this work, I have helped many people adapt or modify various aspects of life to be able to experience a high-quality life despite the changes or challenges dementia can create. 

About three years ago, I met Harvey Hart. He had a mission to bring better services to Aberdeen for this specific population. Together, he and I opened Brain Intercept in November 2020. My personal goal is to help people understand that whether they or a loved one is living with early dementia or has had dementia for many, many years, there is a way to LIVE with dementia. 

I find that a caregiver for a person with dementia does not truly understand the complexity and necessity of their role. They are the stronghold that helps that person maintain who they are. The best part is, in most situations, they are more than happy and feel very fulfilled in this role. Due to the demands of helping a loved one with dementia, caregivers often put themselves and their own needs on the back burner. Caregivers need to have a place they can turn to help guide them through the various situations they will encounter over the years.

Here are a few tips for caregivers to keep themselves well, which in turn helps keep their loved one well.

  • Find your “person.” This is someone you can rely on and lean on when you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Plan “me time.” Set aside time for yourself, even if it is only 10 minutes each day to practice a little mindful meditation, prayer, or self-love.
  • Reach out to resources. Too often, it may feel like “this is just the way it is.” However, there are almost always ways to adapt or modify to make life easier and more fulfilling.
  • Focus on positive moments. Journaling about the day and focusing on the good moments will help you through the more challenging moments.

Embracing Grace throughout Compassionate Caregiving

A resource in the Aberdeen community that can help care providers is the Embracing Grace caregivers support group. The meeting is held the first and third Monday of each month in the community room at Aberdeen First United Methodist Church at 6:30 PM. The group was created to support caregivers as they navigate through the rewards and challenges of their role.

Each meeting begins with a piece of education for caregivers to learn and practice in their own lives. This knowledge and information grows through conversation as the group then shares their personal experiences. 

Sarah Viola leads this support group to answer questions and provide her specialized knowledge when needed, if wanted by the group. If you want to hear more about the support group, you can reach Sarah Viola at 605-725-8885.