More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Unpaid caregivers are primarily family members, often an elderly spouse, but may include friends and other relatives. Caring for an individual with dementia is difficult, and often results in high levels of emotional stress and depression, as well as a negative impact on health, employment, income or other family finances. Recognizing the toll that the disease can take on the whole family, Visiting Nurse & Hospice has developed the Forget Me Not program in order to assist caregivers in dealing with the many challenges they face.

More Information

Fact box

The Forget Me Not program is a free, educational series of community workshops designed to support those who care for a loved one with memory impairment. The program focuses on a number of issues.

The next Forget Me Not workshop is entitled "Planning and Preparing for the Road Ahead" and will address the difficult decisions that a caregiver must consider, including legal issues. The workshop will take place on Thursday, April 4, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the offices of Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County in the Health & Wellness Center at I-Park, 761 Main Ave., Suite 114, Norwalk.

Dawn Pelazza, community liaison nurse with Vising Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, will conduct the workshops. She has 20 years of clinical and administrative experience and having served as an Alzheimer's educator for the past five years. She also has a close personal connection to the disease, and knows first-hand what it takes to be a full-time caregiver. Pelazza's father died from the disease two years ago and her mother-in-law, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer's, is currently living with her family.

"As a family caregiver, you are called upon to act as nurse, aide, homemaker, companion, dietitian, physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapist, social worker, pharmacist, financial advisor, paralegal and patient advocate -- all at once and without any training. It's no wonder we are seeing a need for these types of programs right here in our community," Pelazza said. "In many cases a patient can be a full stage into the disease by the time a diagnosis is made. It is important for those in similar situations to know that there is a strong support network available."

Space is limited and registration is required. For information or to register, call 203-762-8958.