Coffee, cookies and conversation help caregivers cope

One of the best-kept secrets in Puyallup is the Caregivers Group that meets on the second Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2:30 at Good Samaritan Behavior Health.

The group’s gatherings – from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at 325 E. Pioneer, Building 2 — are open to anyone who is caregiving for someone. Usually this is a family member, but all are welcome.

Madred Slaker, a geriatric mental health specialist, leads the group and opens each meeting with a time for people to share how their month has been.

“The group’s main strength and the biggest benefit is it is a place to meet with other people in your similar situation. You get strength from them, and caregivers can vent and be understood,” said Slaker.

And the best news of all is that it is free.

Feedback from other members of the group is always welcome, as their experiences help members cope with a challenging situation and “understand how very difficult being a caregiver is. It can help you to avoid burnout, and it is also a place to let down your hair,” Slaker said.

At a recent meeting, Anita Kent, a dementia specialist, talked about an upcoming caregiver conference. Kent deals with folks who are taking care of a person with dementia and teaches them strategies to deal with the demands they are facing.

The Caregivers Group hosts speakers on a variety of topics that they might not be aware of, such as respite care and help with housework.

Slaker keeps things on track, all the while offering help and support laced with facts and humor and remaining friendly and helpful to the caregivers. Clients can also see a counselor one-on-one for more support.

Caregiving can be a tough job. There have been cases where the caregiver passed away before the person they were caring for, due to the stress involved. The group helps clients avoid these situations with tips and hints on how to see the warning signs of burnout.

Denny Cline has been part of the group for about two years. Cline, who is 89, takes care of his 86-year-old wife and read about the group in the newspaper. The Clines have been married for 63 years.

“Coming to this group is almost the only social life I’ve had. I’ve received information about things that have helped me,” he said.

Last year, a speaker shared information about the services Catholic Services Respite Care offers. Cline gave them a call to set up a visit, during which time they evaluated he and his wife’s situation. Now Cline takes full advantage of the opportunity to leave the house for errands and not have to worry about his wife’s well-being.

“There are caregivers who have stayed with us for five or 10 years or more, and it has made them more open to exploring options in the community and trying resources that may help balance their load,” said Slaker, adding “sharing is essential. It gives caregivers a time to get positive feedback from the group and the facilitator.”

Anyone living in Pierce County or adjoining counties is welcome to join the group. “You just have to be caring for a loved one who is living outside of a residential agency,” said Slaker.

The group is a safe place for folks to talk about their situation, learn about services they might have not known about, and interact and bond with others in their similar situation. For more information, contact Slaker at 253-697-8329.


Members of the Caregivers Group provides support and services for people caring for a loved one. (Joan Cronk/for Senior Scene)