Managing stress this holiday season to be discussed at presentation

November 18, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN     johnmerrittweb
Lessons learned from living, a new program series offered by Friends of the Boca Grande Community Center, will present “Coping with Chronic Illness and Managing the Stress of the Holidays” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1.
This program will be less formal, said Grace Ott, licensed clinical social worker and facilitator of the event.
“One of the inspirations for starting this series was so people could come and learn from each other. It’s not like a classroom setting, it’s more of a roundtable discussion,” Ott said.
The event speakers are island residents Cici Ives and John Merritt. Both have gone through life-changing diagnoses and will tell anecdotal, heartwarming stories of coping with chronic illness, lifestyle changes, managing expectations and the added stress that often occurs during the holiday season. Ives left New England and moved to Boca Grande after her late husband, Ken, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She found the island to be a very supportive environment. Her personal battle with the recurrence of breast cancer after more than 20 years has been a more recent challenge.
Merritt is a well-educated business professional, who retired in 2002 and moved to Boca Grande in 2015 due to a worsening of his medical condition, multiple sclerosis. Since retiring he has served on several boards and has given back to the community and his church.
“Several residents have chosen to live on the island because the environment here can be very healing,” Ott said. Both speakers will discuss how to get access to various resources in the area and what types are available. Resource handouts will be available for participants to take home.
The discussion will be held at 2 p.m. in the Houghton Room at the Boca Grande Community Center. There is no charge to attend, but pre-registration is required. Debbie Frank, Friends of the Boca Grande Community Center program director, said she hopes more residents will attend this program to learn from Cici and John and support them as fellow community members. “They (John and Cici) want it to be an interactive dialogue, and they’re encouraging people to share their stories as well – both from a caregiver’s perspective as well as any personal experiences,” Frank said.
There is another educational event planned for Monday, Dec. 12: “Communication Changes Associated with Dementia.” This program will examine changes in the brain associated with dementia. The importance of communication – how communication changes, and how to engage in better communication – will be covered. Alzheimer’s disease statistics will also be discussed. Ott added that if people are willing to share their knowledge and experiences about related topics for future presentations, they should contact her directly so their stories or skills can be incorporated into upcoming programs.
“These programs are fashioned for the community, and I think it’s very important to encourage audience participation,” she said. You can reach Ott by calling 964-2167.
For more information, go to friendsofbocagrande.org.