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Monday, January 11, 2010

Caregiver reaches out to others

Published: January 11, 2010 10:56 am
• Support group for caregivers will meet at same time as aphasia patient group
Laura Wilson - NewsPress
Dr. Larry Fulgenzi knows the issues facing people taking care of aphasia patients.

He’s a retired clinical psychologist, but he’s also a caregiver himself. He takes care of his wife, who had a stroke, so he knows first hand the pressures of caring for someone who can’t always communicate easily.

Aphasia is “an impairment of the ability to use or comprehend words, usually acquired as a result of a stroke or other brain injury,” according to a brochure for Fulgenzi’s new support group.

He and Dr. Kaye Aulgur have joined forces to create the group, which will provide support for caregivers and families and treatment for aphasia patients. It’s the first aphasia group offered in Stillwater, Aulgur said, and the first to combine help for patients and caregivers in the state.

When Fulgenzi began taking care of his wife, he attended a caregiver support group, but it was primarily for people taking care of Alzheimer’s patients.

“The first meeting, I shed tears I didn’t know were there,” he said.

The group helped him but, he said, “there are big differences between Alzheimer’s patients and stroke victims as well as the kind of pressures caregivers deal with.”

Recognizing the pressure is one of the biggest problems for caregivers, Fulgenzi said, particularly for men. Men who are caregivers tend to believe they can take care of everything themselves, he said.

That was a big problem for him.

“I had to come to realize Superman doesn’t live here any more. It was OK to get help,” he said.

He wants to pass that message on in the new support group. Caregivers will meet at the same time as patients in the treatment group.

Meetings are planned from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays in Room 030 in Murray Hall at Oklahoma State University.

The caregiver support group will allow caregivers to talk with each other, share ideas and information and hear from ministers, social workers, hospital staff and others who can offer help, Fulgenzi said.

“It’s not a therapy group, but obviously a lot of therapy takes place,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to let go, to let go of emotions.”

Aulgur will lead the patient treatment group. It isn’t designed to take the place of individual therapy, she said, but will complement it.

“We’ll do a lot of practical sorts of things, group discussion, role playing,” she said.

Members of the group might work one week on what they need to say in restaurants and another week on words they will need in other situations. They’ll work on situations that happen in everyday life, Aulgur said.

“Research shows this sort of thing really helps,” she said.

Fulgenzi and Aulgur haven’t set an official start time for their group, but would like to open it quickly, as soon as they have two or three people interested, Aulgur said.

Anyone who would like to participate can contact Aulgur at 744-8942 or Fulgenzi at 372-2468.
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