Like thousands of other central Ohioans, Kim Simpson spends a good portion of her week caring for an aging loved one.

Like thousands of other central Ohioans, Kim Simpson spends a good portion of her week caring for an aging loved one.

Because her mother now resides in an assisted-living facility, Simpson does the grocery shopping, provides transportation for doctor's appointments and works with the facility's staff on a number of issues.

Fortunately, Simpson said, she and others like her now have an emotional outlet for their experiences.

The Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging is now providing a support group for caregivers, who can feel emotionally, physically and mentally drained.

The group meets from noon to 1 p.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at the agency's offices, 174 E. Long St. downtown.

The meetings are free and open to all caregivers throughout the region.

Simpson, aging programs care coordinator for the agency, said she will attend sessions as a participant.

"There are tons of people in the same situation," she said. "I think it will be really helpful."

Lynn Dobb, caregiver advocate for the agency, said there are local support groups for caregivers, but they usually are disease-specific.

"We decided to offer something more general because we know there are lots of caregivers out there who could benefit from hearing from others," Dobb said. "It's a great place for people to give and receive emotional and practical support.

"It's an opportunity to exchange information with others who are walking a similar walk. Everybody's situation is going to be different."

As more and more seniors prefer to "age in place," younger generations are providing a greater amount of care, Dobb said.

"Our goal in this support group is to give people an opportunity to visit a place that is very tuned into issues of care-giving, is very familiar with the resources for caregivers," Dobb said.

She said 65 percent of older adults with long-term-care needs rely exclusively on family and friends for assistance.

The typical U.S. caregiver is a 48-year-old woman who is married and employed. More than 37 percent have children or grandchildren living with them, she said.

"They're not only caring for the aging family member but they're also caring for the younger generation," Dobbs said.

Another 35 to 40 percent are providing care without any outside help. And 25 percent of nursing-home placements are precipitated by a caregiver's illness or death, she said.

"And while care-giving has predominantly has been a women's issue, men make up 34 percent of care-giving population," Dobbs said.

Simpson said her mother's situation can be stressful, but it's also rewarding.

"It's been a real gift to know her in a different way," she said.