Care Partner Support Group to Begin in Highland County – Part 1


Folks that care for those with memory loss may sometimes feel like they have no place to turn to for help themselves.  To alleviate this issue, a new Care Partner Support Group is being brought to Highland County.  In part 1 of this two-part story, Sarah Rexrode with the Highland County Department of Social Services introduces this upcoming free resource.

Ms. Rexrode says, “We do not have a support group for care partners of those suffering with memory loss anywhere close to our area in Highland or Bath Counties, and Harmony and I got together about a year ago and had an initial conversation about the need for a support group here in our area to offer to our citizens and to open up to Bath County if they wanted to come up our way to attend the group.  This is a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Virginia Chapter, which covers fifty-two counties and the Highland County Department of Social Services and the Highland Senior Services through Valley Program for Aging Services.

“So the support group provides a regularly-scheduled time for people to meet with other people who are affected by memory loss, so this is a group for caregivers or care partners of those suffering with some type of memory loss, not for the actual patients themselves.  It provides a chance for those persons to socialize, to get education and support, and the facilitators of the group are trained by the Alzheimer’s Association, so we have three trained facilitators here in the county.  Myself and Harmony are both trained facilitators and Malorie Brower who works at the Department of Social Services is also trained as a facilitator.  It provides an opportunity for family members and other caregivers to develop a mutual support system with others who are experiencing similar successes and struggles.  Caregivers can share ways of adapting to stress in a safe and supportive environment.  Education helps the caregivers be able to develop realistic expectations for their loved ones.  There are many times, especially in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s where caregivers still expect for their loved ones to be able to function as they have all along and slowly those things start to change, so the caregivers are having to adapt to that, and this is an environment where they can talk about some of those struggles with other people who may be going through the same thing or who may have already experienced that with their loved one.”

Harmony Leonard with the Valley Program for Aging Services continues.  She says, “Care partners are not just family members.  They’re also friends, neighbors, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, anyone who has a person in their life either currently or maybe they’re struggling with some issues from the past.  It can be someone who has a newly diagnosed individual in their family or their neighborhood, so they’re not sure what to expect, or it can be someone with advanced stages of dementia, so our expectation is that the group is open to everyone, so hopefully the group will also identify this as a safe, supportive, confidential environment to share and learn.”

The KICK OFF event will be Tuesday, October 24th at 1:00 p.m. in the Community Room of the Highland Medical Center.  Meetings will then be held the second Tuesday of the month from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.  The first group meeting is November 14th.  For more information, folks can call Malorie Brower at 540-468-2199 or Harmony Leonard at 540-468-2178 or visit  In part 2 of this story, we’ll have more on Alzheimer’s disease, including ten signs of early detection.


Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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