Sisters start support group after mom's death

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By Bryan Marshall

When their mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in August 2007, four Grant County sisters were lost and lonely.

Debbie Vannarsdall, Brenda Caldwell, Rhonda Rich and Christie Evans lost their mom in September 2008.

Now, the siblings have made it their mission to help others know that they are not alone by starting an Alzheimer’s Support Group.

“We really didn’t know a whole lot about it,” Vannarsdall said about the disease. “Between the four of us, we got on the Internet and tried to find information, but it doesn’t really tell you a lot of stuff to expect.”

“The doctors were very helpful as far as the medical side of things,” she said. “But, as far as telling us that she was going to hallucinate, that she was going to look in the mirror and think she was talking to her sister and that she was going to see people in the house that weren’t really there, had we known, it wouldn’t have been such a shock.”

The support group, which started in November, meets the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Williamstown Christian Church, 318 North Main St., Williamstown.

The meetings draw 10 to 20 attendees, Caldwell said.

The sisters, whose father also is dealing with the disease, initially attended Alzheimer’s Association meetings in Florence, but time and gas prices helped them decide to start their own group locally.

During the meetings, information from the Alzheimer’s Association is handed out and attendees share their experiences and listen to others who have family and friends dealing with the disease.

“We want to be very supportive and be able to let people talk and get their problems out,” Caldwell said. “It’s helped me to listen to others and realize that the guilt and everything we felt going through it is normal. We lost our mother and it was very hard, but knowing that we’re able to help someone else through it is awesome.”

A support group would have been beneficial for her and her sisters while their mother was alive, Vannarsdall said.

“It was really difficult,” she said. “Alzheimer’s just takes their mind and changes the person. Luckily, I had three sisters to help me to get through it. Some people don’t have that.”

The support group’s next meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 5., and will feature a representative from the Alzheimer’s Association as guest speaker.

For more information, call Brenda at 823-0661 or Debbie at 824-6681.