Illinois Valley Alzheimer’s Group resumes live meetings after COVID hiatus

Next meeting is April 18 at St. Paul’s Church, La Salle

Bob Frig cared for his dementia-stricken wife Ruth for nearly 12 years. It was a crushing task, but he drew strength from the Illinois Valley Alzheimer’s Group.

“It was a long battle,” said Frig, who laid his wife to rest in fall 2020 and amid tight infection controls. “Without this group, I don’t know where I would have been.”

Now, Frig and other members are trying to spread the word to other families struggling with dementia: The support group is active and meets regularly.

“We get a lot of questions asking if we’re still functioning,” said co-founder Peg Gonet. “The answer is yes.”

Though meetings were suspended during the novel coronavirus pandemic and this past winter, the support group has resumed meeting at 6 p.m. the third Monday of each month in the church hall at St. Paul’s Episcopal, 344 Joliet St., La Salle.

The next meeting is April 18 and features guest speaker Zach Hesselbaum, an elder law attorney from Aurora.

Support groups had to curtail their activities during infection controls, leading to the mistaken belief that groups were disbanded. That wasn’t the case for the Alzheimer’s Group, though co-founder Joanne Milby acknowledged the group couldn’t meet virtually, as most participants are seniors with limited computer know-how.

Now that infection controls are lifted, Milby said she wants local families to know a local support network is there to help families shoulder the load of battling dementia.

“We’ve all been through it,” Milby said. “You don’t feel as alone when you get involved in a group. We do a lot of venting. We cry. We laugh.”

The Alzheimer’s Group is by no means limited to support and outreach. They also raise funds for Alzheimer’s research – more than $52,000 has been donated to Rush University’s research arm – as well as provide funding for Alzheimer’s units at local nursing homes as well as respite for caregivers who need a break.

New this year is a one-mile fundraiser walk to be held Aug. 20 in tandem with the Boo Milby 5K Run/Walk and Memory Walk. Milby co-founded the walk in 2007, though the event has, since 2020, been overseen by Starved Rock Runners.

Donations may be directed to 11A Heather Drive, La Salle IL 61301. Illinois Valley Alzheimer’s Group, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) entity.