What Is a Support Group? A support group is a regular meeting of people with the same illness or life situation (such as being a caregiver).
Support Group Formats: Some groups are structured and educational, bringing in speakers; in others the primary purpose is for members to share their feelings and experiences as well as give encouragement and practical advice to each other. Some groups meet in person, others meet online, and still others meet via phone.
Who Leads the Group? In some cases groups name their own leaders; other times a trained professional facilitates the meeting. Some Alzheimer’s caregiver groups provide free care for the person being cared for so that caregivers can be free to attend the meetings.
Meeting ‘Rules:’ The first is usually that any information shared is confidential. Secondly, only one person is allowed to talk at a time. Finally, members are instructed not to be judgmental. An additional rule for caregiver support groups is that the focus is on the caregiver – not the person being cared for.
General Benefits of Support Groups: It can be helpful just to talk with other people who are in the same situation you are in. Although some people may not feel like speaking up, according to an article on the Area Agency on Aging website, it can be helpful just to listen in.
Specific Benefits: According to a Mayo Clinic website article, some benefits of participating in support groups include:
– Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
– Gaining a sense of empowerment and control
– Improving your coping skills and sense of adjustment
– Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
– Reducing distress, depression or anxiety
– Developing a clearer understanding of what to expect with your situation
– Getting practical advice or information about treatment options
– Comparing notes about resources, such as doctors and alternative options
How to Find a Support Group: To find a support group ask your doctor, check with your friends or acquaintances who are caregivers, or call your local Area Agency on Aging or your chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. You can also go to the Alzheimer’s Association website (alz.org) and search for a group near you or sign up for one of the online support groups the Association operates.
Is anyone attending a support group? If so, is it helpful to you?