I recently heard about a caregiver support group that meets at my local hospital. What can I expect if I choose to attend and what are some of the benefits?
It can feel intimidating if you’ve never attended a support group before but here are some things you should know….
First and foremost, caregiver support groups are a safe and welcoming place for people to be in the company of others who can relate to this rewarding, but demanding, piece of their life. It offers an opportunity to speak openly about the many joys, challenges, and emotions that coincide with taking care of a loved one.
Once you feel you’re ready to join a group, you’ll want to decide which type of group you want to attend. There are general groups that are open to all kinds of caregivers, no matter the diagnosis of their loved one and there are also more specific groups for those caring for someone with a similar diagnosis, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease.
Often times, one or two facilitators will host the group and help to keep the conversation flowing. They might suggest different topics or even invite educational speakers to connect caregivers to useful information and local resources.
Next, it’s important to remember that support groups are confidential and the information shared needs to be respected and must not be repeated outside of the group. Some caregivers feel comfortable opening up and sharing their stories right away while others take their time in getting comfortable. Some even prefer to listen until they feel ready to share. What you choose to share and when you choose to share it is all up to you.
Caregiver support groups are also a great way to meet people that may share a similar situation or are facing some of the same difficulties. It can help to talk with an old friend but sometimes it might seem that they don’t really understand what you’re going through as a caregiver if they haven’t already been there themselves. People who attend support groups have found that it can be very therapeutic, empowering, and even validating, to talk things out with people who have been there, who can truly say “I understand.” Since members of the group have walked or are currently walking a similar path, they are able to share stories, experiences and sometimes offer helpful ideas and information on tough issues.
Support groups are a great place for caregivers to find encouragement, empowerment, and inspiration through the realization that they are not alone. The Family Caregiver Support Program keeps an updated list of caregiver support groups that can be found HERE.