By Jesse Murphy 

Alzheimers support group helps area families


For those with a loved one suffering from Alzheimers or dementia, there is a long and difficult road ahead.

But thanks to the Niwot United Methodist Church and the Alzheimers Association, help can be found.

Ralph Patrick, regional director for the Alzheimers Association in the Greater Boulder area, said that recent educational programs came with an interest in support groups.

“The purpose was to pick up and boost what had already been happening,” Patrick said. “We did have some support groups, but as a result of some educational programs that the Methodist church hosted, we decided to launch a support group there at the church.

“They’ve been so instrumental in publicizing and hosting the programs. There was a great deal of interest from the community. The attendance was really good at those classes.”

The group has two trained facilitators, Gerri Davis and Michelle Pelc. Patrick said that beyond the training, facilitators typically have professional and/or personal experience with Alzheimers and dementia.

Patrick said it is geared for caregivers and care partners.

“It’s a support group,” Patrick said. “It’s not intended to be counseling or therapy, it’s a support group. Sometimes there is a directed topic — for example, someone might bring up their spouse wandering for the first time. So we’re going to talk about that, and what it’s like, how to deal with it and what resources there are. The group is organic.

“A lot of the support comes not from the facilitators, but from the other people in the group because they’re the ones that are on the journey. It’s good for the exchange of information and ideas.”

He added that area resident Hallie Pasko has been very involved in the groups and helping get this new group started.

“She’s been invaluable,” Patrick said. “She is a facilitator for other groups, she’s on our speaker’s bureau and lives right there in Niwot. She has been involved with the association for a long time and we really appreciate her help.”

Patrick said that just over 67,000 people in the state suffer from either Alzheimers or dementia and the number is on the rise.

Some early signs include short-term memory loss, changes in behavior, anxiety, withdrawal from social situations, inability to do familiar daily tasks and driving becoming an issue.

“This is the thing, the disease is very unique in the sense that while there are some common characteristics, it affects every person differently and at different rates,” Patrick said. “It depends on the individual and the form or type of dementia.”

All of the groups, programs and classes are free and open to the public.

The support group meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the church, 7405 Lookout Road in Gunbarrel.For more information call the Alzheimers Association’s helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit


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