By Melody Vallieu
MIAMI COUNTY — When a loved one is sick, the person’s caregiver — oftentimes another family member or friend — also needs a great deal of support.
Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County’s Caregiver Connection program, a support group, is one way caregivers can seek support in their journey.
The program is facilitated by Wayne Melgaard of Piqua, who began volunteering with Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County about a year after the loss of his wife, Gail, in 2009. Melgaard also was on the committee that originated the Caregiver Connection program, which began in 2011.
Melgaard said he agreed to be the facilitator of the program because he feels he has some helpful insight, having been on both sides of the fence.
“I had cancer back in 2004 and Gail was my caregiver, and in turn, when she became sick, I became her caregiver,” Melgaard said.
Melgaard said in his capacity as facilitator, he believes it is his job to get the caregivers to open up about their challenges.
“I think the hardest part for the caregiver is being able to talk about their issues,” said Melgaard, who said a second volunteer also attends the meetings to help. “People have a natural tendency to hibernate their feelings and not open up. But once they start doing that, it’s like a waterflow.”
He said listening is another aspect to his position within the group.
“A lot of it is just listening and then getting folks to talk. They don’t want to talk. You you have to ask questions, get them to open up. That is the job of a facilitator.”
Melgaard, who also is involved in other Hospice programs, said having a safe place to talk about frustrations and ask questions about problems they have while caring for someone with a life-limiting illness is important for a caregiver.
“We find that they think they have a unique situation, when actually they don’t, they just need to share it with others,” Melgaard said. “We find that others can give them answers and solutions to problems that they are running into.”
Caregiver Connection is an open forum, but very private as confidentiality goes, according to Melgaard. He said a meeting may consist of four to 10 people. He said there are people who have been associated with the support group for several years, and there are people who have come to one meeting, lost their loved one, and never returned.
Although sanctioned by Hospice, the program is free and open to anyone in the community who would benefit, according to Melgaard.
Caregiver Connection rotates its meeting locations — held the second and fourth Thursdays of the month — throughout the county. For the remainder of this year — Dec. 14 and 28 — the support group will meet from 2-3 p.m. at the Upper Room Worship Center, 648 N. Hyatt St., Tipp City. Beginning in the first quarter of 2018, Melgaard said meetings will take place at the Troy-Miami County Public Library in Troy.
Beth Shrake, volunteer coordinator at Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County, said Melgaard is a valuable asset to the non-profit organization.
“We can always count on Wayne, not only for Caregiver Connection, but the veterans’ program, and anything we need,” said Shrake, who said the organization has more than 150 volunteers. “Volunteers like Wayne make a huge difference in what we are able to provide for patients and families.”
Reach Melody Vallieu at email@example.com or (937) 552-2131