Growing Support Groups: Learning Together, Helping Each Other

October 17, 2017

Emerald Crest offers support groups for dementia caregivers on the second Tuesday of each month

In the late 1960s, my father, Pastor Bill Smith was a pastor in a large congregation in Minneapolis. As a Pastor during this time, he saw the need for pastoral care sharply increase, due in part to the shifts in American culture. Pastoral support was in high  demand, and he could not keep up with people in his congregation who needed support.  He observed how mutual sharing was a source of comfort and strength among people with similar losses and struggles – this gave him an idea.

In 1970 my father decided to develop support groups in his congregation. Here, with guidance and training, people could support each other in the illnesses, grief and suffering that were a part of parish life but rarely openly addressed. During his research, he visited pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers who had developed the model for effective group support. My father brought that model back to his congregation, in part to divide his pastoral care load, however he wanted most to develop a sense of connection and community within his church, strengthening the bonds between individual parishioners who were engaged in common struggles. He established several support groups. I know they were well attended, because as a child I helped clean up the kitchen at church afterward!

My father was somewhat of a pioneer himself in the Lutheran Church at that time. Support groups were very new in 1970. Now they are now a common part of church programming. Hospitals, health and wellness care, and many community programs also offer support groups. You can find support for every life transition, challenge and change, and they’ve been expanded to the online community.

At Emerald Crest, we have a support group for caregivers on the second Tuesdays of every month at Burnsville (5-6:30). We are now adding monthly support groups on the calendar at every location. These “Meal and Meeting” groups include a light meal, and provide practical information to caregivers. Our groups also provide confidential, shared experiences of compassionate support so that we might learn together about our struggles and the pain and loss that come with care giving. We learn through sharing our own story how we are able to transcend painful losses and grow, individually and together.

Years ago, my father was on to something when he brought an idea from the West Coast back to his church in Minneapolis. He retired from teaching at Luther Seminary in 1994.  As time went on, Dad developed dementia, then died in 2010. Now, nearly 50 years later as a Pastor myself, his legacy lives on in me. I am proud to share this legacy with Emerald Crest families, friends and caregivers. I hope you will join us soon and share your journey with others in the Emerald Crest community.

Rev. Lette Gamble

At Emerald Crest, we offer a deep knowledge of memory care in a specialized assisted living setting for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions. We encourage you to contact us directly with any questions or request a tour. For tours and general information, please contact Christine Drasher at 952-908-2215.

For questions about our spiritual care program and Caregiver’s Meal and Meeting, or if you would like spiritual care and support for you or your loved one, contact Rev. Lette Gamble at 612-554-6379 or



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I am forever grateful for the care my mother received and for the team approach for her care: staff, family, RAs all working together.

— Pam, daughter of resident