What are support groups?
Regularly scheduled, confidential meetings of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or their caregivers, facilitated by a trained professional or former family caregiver, whose primary purpose is to provide knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease while allowing members to receive support and encouragement from others in a similar situation. Some meet each month, others weekly. Finding a time and place that fits your schedule is important.
What types of Support Groups are there?
There are a variety of groups available across our Chapter. There are some groups for people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia. These groups are designed for people who are in the earlier stages of the disease, and could benefit being around others in a similar situation. It can be comforting to be with others who completely understand what you are going through, and understand what getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s feels like.
The most common support groups are our Caregiver Support Groups. These groups allow caregivers an opportunity to be with others who have a loved one diagnosed on their life. A caregiver could be a spouse or child, or a friend or neighbor. Often Caregiver support groups are a time to learn about helpful resources, brainstorm about particular topics, or be with others that understand what it’s like to have s loved one diagnosed.
There are other groups that are disease specific, for example groups for people dealing with Lewy’s Body Dementia, or Frontal Lobe Dementia. There are groups that focus on a particular culture or ethnicity. There are groups that are more interested in offering some social time. And remember we are always open to helping people start a group that meets a community’s specific need.
Who attends support groups?
People of all ages, races, genders, education levels and backgrounds. Although many members join when they are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, people who attend groups tend to be strong individuals who are looking to gain the best support available for themselves and their families and who want to learn about the disease, and prepare for the future. It also allows creates an opportunity for participants to help each other deal with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is a group like?
Most groups meet 1 or 2 times a month for 60-90 minutes, and provide a combination of education and emotional support. Technology-assisted groups (groups via phone or internet) usually meet more often but for less time.
A typical group starts a leader(s) introducing him or herself and making announcements, and the members introducing themselves however they are comfortable doing so. A group may then follow-up with issues from the previous meeting, answer questions, provide educational information, or allow an open format for member discussion. Groups conclude in a variety of ways that vary from a deep breathing exercise or the leader providing handouts on topics discussed in the meeting to the telling of a ‘joke of the month’ or a ten minute coffee break for members to chat informally.
Why should someone attend a group?
While attending a group is not the solution for all, it can be a vital part of maintaining the health and well-being of both caregiver and patient. Groups provide vital education about managing dementia care that reduces stress for all involved. Research has shown that attending a support group can not only reduce caregiver stress but improve the functioning of people with Alzheimer’s, keep them living at home longer, and assist in managing difficult behaviors that may arise.
Many people don’t attend a group because they think they are depressing or someplace you go if you can’t cope. But the opposite is true! Groups help you cope. Studies have found that the least depressed caregivers attend a group. And group members themselves have often found that while the group is a good place to cry if you need to, it is also is a great place to laugh.