Support Groups help us enjoy the better side of Care-giving
Most of us didn’t plan for–or intend to become a full-time caregiver for a family member. Most of us were taken hostage by a job that we never wanted in the first place. So it’s no wonder we become weary and cranky and discouraged when we begin providing care for a loved one 24-hours a day – 7 days a week.
If we had been nurses, or counselors, or social workers, or doctors we might have understood what we were in for from the beginning. It might even have been easier if we had known how to do many of the things that we only learned by trial and error because we had no such skills. And for many of us it has been extraordinarily difficult.
One of the most important things to remember is that there are many other caregivers out there just like you. There is no reason to feel alone. You only have to find a few of those others with the same issues who are willing to help.
There is something calming about sharing time with others who know the trials you suffer. That’s why I recommend Support Groups. There are many different styles and kinds of Support Groups, so almost anyone can find a Support Group that is comfortable for them.
A few things Support Groups can offer the caregiver:
Education: Speakers and lecturers on topics of interest
Community: A chance to meet and visit with support in your local area
Comraderie: The opportunity to share experiences and find resolutions for common problems with caregiving
Emotional support: The chance to learn from others and share your own joy with your loved one as well as the sorrows and grief of constant caregiving
To receive emotional support from a group, it’s important that you choose the right group for you. Groups come in as many shapes and sizes as a new pair of shoes, and you may need to spend a little time in your group before they become comfortable.
A few varieties of Support Groups:
A formal group led by trained group members; teachers, nurses, doctors
Informal Group who shares and takes turns leading the meetings
Young People – and Discussions of Early Onset Alzheimer’s
Spouses – Who are caring for Spouses with Alzheimer’s
Adult Children – Who are caring for parents, aunts, uncles, other relatives
It helps to choose a group that is focused on the same concerns that you will face. In such a way, it will hold your interest as well as answer any questions you may have about your own skills. When a groups is focused on the same concerns that you have, it will give you the opportunity to share your fears and hopes for the future of your loved one.
How to Find a Support Group Near you
The Alzheimer’s Office in your city is a great place to start, besides support groups they might also give you phone number for many beneficial numbers that you will need; medical support, support groups, Group homes and Nursing Homes in your area. Your Family physician may also know phone numbers or locations of area Support Groups. Church or Synagogue may have phone numbers or locations of area Support Groups and may host some of those meetings too. Friends, neighbors and relatives often know of local Support Groups also.
Internet support groups may seem less personal as there are no scheduled meetings but rather a continuous dialogue about the subject matter. The benefit of Internet Support Groups is that they are available at any hour and a welcome respite for those who have no time to leave the home for a regularly scheduled meeting.
For three years I spent many hours at an internet Support Group. Eventually you become as familiar with these people and their families as though you’d known each other for many years.
Whether you choose a local support group or an internet support group, don’t expect to feel comfortable immediately. It takes time to fit-in and feel a part of the group. Try several meetings before you decide a particular group is not for you. If you decide to leave a group, try another. Every group is different, different people, different topics, different personalities. It may take several tries to find the group right for you. But there’s a group out there waiting for your smile.
With the help of Support Groups we can learn about new resources and strategies to make our life easier from others who are coping with the same situations we face. With the help of Support Groups we can “air” our emotions and receive sympathy and concern from others who have suffered the same stress. Since we are easing and sharing and releasing some of our own stress at the Support Group, we’ll have more time for healthy thinking about the good things that happen as caregivers.
When we keep ourselves healthy emotionally we are free to enjoy the better moments of care-giving and accurately assess all the good things we bring to another person’s life; fulfilling a commitment to a spouse, sharing final years with an aging parent or more time to deepen our own religious ties or faith.
Do you belong to a Support Group? Have they Helped you? We’d love to hear your experience.