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The Caregiver Club helps St. Louis families deal with dementia

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The Caregiver Club
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Cousins Alicia Christopher (far left) and Jodie Finney (far right) are each dealing with a parent's dementia. They pose with Christopher's dad, Patrick Behan, (center left) and Finney's mom, Margot Condie (center right).

When Alicia Christopher’s father began to show signs of cognitive impairment in 2019, she didn’t have to look far to find someone who knew what she was going through: Christopher’s cousin Jodie Finney was already helping a parent with dementia.

Finney’s mom has lived with Alzheimer’s disease since 2017. Christopher’s father was officially diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia just this month.

“Our families are extremely close and always have been,” Christopher explained on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So when [Finney’s mom] was going through that, we were all there with them on that journey. And then as we went through a similar but different journey with frontotemporal dementia, it was great and also hard to realize we're both going through a similar journey — but different at the same time.”

Now the two cousins have teamed up to create a nonprofit aimed at helping families like theirs — families that need support, practical advice and empathy. The Caregiver Club earned its nonprofit status this March, and its co-presidents are gearing up for their first public event later this month.

Listen to the Caregiver Club's Jodie Finney and Alicia Christopher on St. Louis on the Air

The inspiration came from the cards Christopher would hand out when taking her dad out to eat. “I am caring for someone with dementia/Alzheimer’s,” they explain. “We appreciate your patience and kindness.”

Christopher found they helped finesse social situations with her very social, very active dad. She showed them to Finney one night during a family evening of pumpkin carving, raising the idea of making them available to other families, too.

The cards immediately resonated.

“I still have vivid memories of being out with Mom and in the public,” Finney said. “I was like, ‘This is fantastic. We need to do this.’ And so we did a little market research and realized that there is a space for us in the dementia community.”

The cousins decided to manufacture them as a fundraiser — and use the money to provide both free respite opportunities and group social events for caregivers. From there, the Caregiver Club was born.

The club is already offering respite packages for caregivers, paid or unpaid (you can nominate a caregiver on their website). They’ll also host their first caregiver/companion social next week: a free fried chicken dinner at the Women’s Exchange of St. Louis. They’re already planning a second event at the Missouri Botanical Garden this September.

“You can come in — again, free of charge — enjoy the garden, network and connect with other people in similar situations, walk the gardens and enjoy just being out of your home and in an environment that's supportive,” Finney said.

Christopher is eagerly planning to be there — along with her dad.

“Isolation is really hard,” she said. “And when you are with someone with dementia, you're always a little bit worried. You're just not sure. And to be able to go out with people that understand and support you and know what's happening is really a blessing.”

Related Event

What: Dine Out with the Caregiver Club
When: 5-7 p.m. June 13
Where: The Women’s Exchange of St. Louis, 8811-A Ladue Road, St. Louis, MO 63124

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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