When Debbie Hardy, administrative coordinator for University Communications and co-chair of the University’s Elder Care affinity group, was asked to be co-chair, she felt uneasy about taking on the role.

“I was volunteered, and I felt like I was being taken out of my comfort zone, talking about my experience in front of people,” she says. “But it has been very helpful.”

The Elder Care group, comprised of faculty and staff who are caring for an elderly parent, spouse, or sibling and want to share ideas about coping, meets twice a month during the day on campus. The group was developed when faculty and staff expressed a need to meet on campus in an informal way, says David Curtis, University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) chair.

“USAC asked for feedback from our constituents, and that feedback resulted in the current affinity groups,” he says. “These groups have been successful in connecting staff, and it is very possible that more groups may be formed in the future around other issues.”

Two other groups, UR Involved and Parenting, also emerged from USAC’s research. UR Involved brings together individuals on campus who are looking to spend time with friends and colleagues at the University while exploring campus and city resources, and Parenting focuses on issues related to becoming new parents.

Martha Pittaway, co-chair of the Elder Care group, assistant to the vice president of Enrollment Management, and a member of USAC, says one of the biggest benefits of the group is the opportunity to feel connected with colleagues on campus who are dealing with the difficult set of circumstances related to caring for an elderly loved one.

“We share common experiences, serve as a support group for one another, and have speakers,” she says. “Laura Dietrick in human resources advised us on ways of bringing people in to speak to the group.”

There is a spectrum of experience represented in the group—from people who are just beginning to think about caring for an elderly loved one, to those who are at the end of that journey. Mary Ann Johnson, program director for the Greater Richmond chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, recently spoke about caring for elderly parents. Part two of her discussion, “Communicating with Parents and How to Get Help” was held at noon on March 21 in Weinstein Hall, room 314. Plans are underway for a speaker in April who will discuss the legal side of elder care, such as power of attorney and living wills.

“The best part for me is being able to help others,” Debbie says. “After going through much trial and error myself, being able to offer advice, or even just listen, is really rewarding.”

To sign up for the Elder Care listserv, visit https://usac.richmond.edu/involve/index.html. For more information about the group, contact Debbie Hardy at dhardy2@richmond.edu.