If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder, a caregiver support group can offer you an opportunity to find out more about available community resources, learn from others who are going through similar experiences and obtain additional educational materials. Caregiver support groups meet monthly unless otherwise noted, and without a fee.
Why you need a Caregiver Support Group
Attending a caregiver support group is often difficult at first. It takes time to feel comfortable sharing your problems with people you do not know. However, the experience of many individuals is that once they open up, they find that their problems are not so different from those of the other support group members. Suddenly, the people they were sharing with were not strangers at all, and by sharing with others in the same situation, they felt less alone.
Through participation in a caregiver support group, you will become better prepared and perhaps feel less devastated as your loved one's condition becomes worse. You also may be able to find some hope, from seeing that others who have been caring longer have survived the caregiving experience.
What is a Caregiver Support Group?
An Alzheimer's Association caregiver support group can be made up of care partners, spouses, family members, and loved ones of those with Alzheimer's disease or related dementias. Although these people begin as strangers, they quickly become friends and, in a sense, a family.
The caregiver support group leader may be a community member and/or a health care professional. The meeting may focus on emotional support and sharing experiences, or it may focus on education, with experts speaking on topics such as legal issues, nutrition, caregiving techniques and community resources.
The number of participants will vary, in some cases depending on the format. For instance, educational groups are usually larger. However, the ideal size for a support group is six to 12 members.
Meetings are usually held monthly at hospitals, churches, libraries, care facilities or senior centers.
Caregiver support groups that are sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association are open to the public and free of charge. These caregiver support groups depend on the chapters to provide resources such as literature, updates on legislation and research, and newsletters. Alzheimer's Association chapters serve larger areas than the caregiver support groups and they provide resources to the community as well.
Alzheimer's Association caregiver support groups encourage members to share information, give and receive mutual support and exchange coping skills with one another. Caregiver support group members share practical suggestions for caring based on their caregiving experiences. Caring for an individual with dementia requires different techniques than those needed to care for someone who is not cognitively impaired. Experienced care partners have found that some methods of providing care, ideas that may not be found in books or articles, can make caregiving easier. Sharing those ideas in a caregiver support group can prevent care partners from having to "re-invent the wheel".
The caregiver support group setting also assists individuals in learning about and locating community resources, such as adult daycare and transportation services. Through sharing common experiences, individuals can obtain consumer information, such as listings of physicians who are familiar with dementia, or nursing homes in the area that accept dementia patients.
Perhaps what is most important about a caregiver support group is the atmosphere of caring, frankness and confidentiality it provides. Care partners need the freedom to express their emotions without feeling guilty, and they need the positive reinforcement that can be given by others who know the hard work involved in providing care. A caregiver support group gives its members the chance to vent their frustrations, anger and disappointments, as well as share their successes in a safe, non-judgmental environment. In the process, members take a first step in restructuring their lives by forming new relationships with each other.
We have many caregiver support groups, at various times and locations. Check to see if there is a group close to you that fits your needs.
The Alzheimer’s Association message boards and chat rooms provide a virtual online community for persons with Alzheimer's, caregivers and care providers. Our message boards have thousands of registered members from around the United States and thousands more who refer to the stories and information that is available 24 hours a day.