If you’re a caregiver to an older loved one, a caregiver support group can be a much-needed resource for sharing experiences, soliciting (and giving) information, connecting with other caregivers and being a place where you can gain acceptance, understanding and even friendships. This can be very important because many caregivers often feel alone and lonely in their day-to-day life.
“Family caregivers today are juggling numerous responsibilities and difficulties: raising children, caring for elderly parents, managing their careers and even trying to manage their own health issues,” says Ann Zak, Executive Director of Chatham Place at Mary Wade, New Haven County’s newest senior living community. “It’s no wonder so many caregivers report burnout, stress and depression, or feel that no one in their family can quite understand what they’re going through.”
What is a caregiver support group?
A caregiver support group can be a formal or informal group of caregivers who meet regularly to share information, tell stories and provide support. They can take place online or in person, and the meetings can range from highly structured to impromptu. As with any support group, there are long-term members, new members and others who come and go as their situation changes.
How do caregiver support groups help caregivers?
Human beings crave connection and companionship. Caregiving can be a lonely and solitary endeavor, particularly when friends or family members can’t understand what you’re going through. Talking with other caregivers can help you find solutions that you might not have thought of or discovered on your own.
A support group offers a space where you can vent your frustrations, ask for information and learn about your older adult’s situation, which can help you realize that you’re not alone and that you are empowered to help find solutions. Knowing that you have people on your side who have also gone through similar experiences can give you the boost you need to carry on.
How can I find a caregiver support group?
There are many different venues for finding a caregiver support group. If you’d like to find local support groups, your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is a great place to start. You may also want to connect with healthcare centers, social workers, nursing homes, senior living communities and other local resources like the American Cancer Society to help you find other places where caregiving groups meet.
Doing an online search for caregiver support groups in your area is also an excellent idea, especially if your aging parents have specific health issues like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, a specific chronic illness or an issue that would require memory care. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association® have chapters across the country as well as helplines that can help you connect with resources.
What can I expect in a caregiver support group meeting?
A caregiver support group is set up very similarly to other support groups. Often, the hardest thing to do is simply show up for your first meeting. It can be unnerving and perhaps a little scary to go someplace new, but understand that everyone in that room has been in the exact same position as you at one point. Caregiver support groups are generally full of welcoming, friendly people who will greet you and provide words of encouragement that will help you feel as if you’ve made the right decision to attend.
Support group meetings generally start with a sign-in process, and once everyone has checked in, the meeting will begin. Oftentimes, a group leader will explain how the meeting will be structured so that everyone attending knows what to expect. There are common guidelines and group etiquette that will be explained at that point, as well, such as:
- Providing the space for group members to speak without being interrupted
- Any time restrictions that may be necessary to keep the meeting on track
- Any rules about discussing official or formal supports like physician recommendations, respite care and others
- Any rules about discussing informal supports like friends, faith organizations, online caregiver support groups and others
While these rules may seem daunting at first, it’s important to remember that support groups are about listening to others, hearing what they’re going through, learning about different perspectives and engaging in constructive discussion. The group leader will generally help guide the meeting so that everyone stays on track and follows the group rules. Sometimes guest speakers or care professionals will attend to share information or present information about treatment and resources.
Hopefully, this provides you with some information about what to expect at a caregiver support group meeting. Hearing the experiences of other caregivers can be a powerful experience, and it can be very cathartic to realize that there are others in the same position as you and that you have a group of people who are invested in your success. Caregiver support groups are a valuable tool for socialization, learning, advocacy and a reminder to make yourself a priority. This allows you to be the best caregiver you can be while also taking care of yourself, too.
Chatham Place at Mary Wade – Now Pre-Leasing!
Chatham Place at Mary Wade provides full-spectrum senior care with a holistic approach. Providing assisted living and memory care options, our devoted team of caregivers and specialists are committed to providing one-on-one, personalized care in a warm and supportive environment while also receiving the best care in the country. Our philosophy of personal service and gentle care remains steadfast and resolute, just as it was at our founding in 1886.
Opening in fall 2021, Chatham Place will offer exceptional senior living options in a warm and inviting atmosphere. This new, state-of-the-art community will have 84 apartments designed to meet today’s safety, security and comfort standards. As part of the Mary Wade campus, we will continue the legacy of exceptional service, truly resident-centered care and access to world-class healthcare services.
For more information, please call (203) 423-3293.