Would You Benefit from a Caregiver Support Group? What to Expect and How to Find One
There’s no instruction manual that teaches how to be a good caregiver. It’s a process of trial and error and can be confusing, overwhelming, depressing, and isolating.
A caregiver support group can help in two ways: it can lower your stress and give you the opportunity to learn from others. In this article, you’ll learn why you may consider joining a support group and what to expect if you do.
Why Join a Support Group?
Studies have shown that caregivers experience a number of benefits when they join a support group. These include the following:
- You’ll feel less lonely, which can reduce anxiety.
- You can vent to others who share many of the same frustrations.
- You can empathize with others about their challenging situations and realize that what you’re going through is normal.
- You can learn tips from more experienced caregivers.
- You can learn about resources for seniors and caregivers that you might not otherwise be aware of.
- You can get advice and support when you’re faced with making tough decisions.
What Happens During a Caregiver Support Meeting?
It can be hard to walk into a support group for the first time. Knowing what to expect can help you feel more comfortable.
Many meetings are led by a trained facilitator (often a social worker). The facilitator may ask the attendees to introduce themselves and explain why they’re at the meeting. Following initial introductions, there is usually time for attendees to share stories, ask for advice, and discuss topics of interest.
Attending a support group doesn’t mean you have to share. If you prefer to observe rather than talk, just let the facilitator know your preference when you arrive.
Most caregiver support groups meet on a regular schedule, whether weekly or monthly, at the same time and place. You aren’t expected to attend every meeting. You can attend whenever it suits your schedule or when you feel like you could benefit from additional support. It’s okay to attend even if you can’t arrive on time. If you show up late or need to leave early, explain your situation to the facilitator. Caregivers tend to have too many demands on their time, so they’ll understand.
How to Find a Caregiver Support Group
It’s easier than you think to find a caregiver support group. Here are five ways to get started:
- Look online. Search “caregiver support group” in your community.
- Call a local organization that works with seniors, such as a hospital, a senior care charity, or a provider of senior care, and ask for recommendations.
- Call a specialty support organization, such as the Alzheimer’s Associationopens in new window or American Cancer Societyopens in new window, for a referral.
- If you can’t find an in-person group, consider joining a virtual support group. This can be an easy first step if an in-person group feels too intimidating. There are many caregiver message boards online as well as private Facebook groups for caregivers.
- If all else fails, band together with others you know who are taking care of their loved ones.
If you still aren’t convinced that a support group would help you, remember that it couldn’t hurt to try out one or two. Bear in mind that no two groups are the same. When you do find a group that feels comfortable for you, you may be surprised by how much it helps to lighten your load.
Next Steps: Plan for Long Term Care