Support Groups for Caregivers
Being a caregiver can be stressful and frustrating. Caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s face not only the general stressors of caregiving, but also deal with the disease-specific effects of Alzheimer’s on a loved one, adding an extra emotional layer and added stressors to the caregiving. Because of the demands of caregiving, ensuring that one has support is important, too. If a caregiver is physically, emotionally, or psychologically drained, it’s going to be harder for them to be there in any and every way for their loved one.
Finding a caregiver support group
Support groups are a great way to develop a social network of people going through similar experiences and can be beneficial for a variety of reasons.
Some support groups are led by trained professionals, while others are facilitated by peers who have been trained in group dynamics and facilitation. One is not necessarily better than the other; they’re just different modes of running the group, depending on what a person may be looking for.
Participants can share experiences for support, learn new ways of coping, learn new caregiving techniques, feel more empowered and connected, and simply be around people who “get it.” What works for one person may not feel comfortable for another, so if a person doesn’t “click” with a support group at first, give it another chance or two before making a final decision. If an individual really doesn’t connect with it, find another group! There are various types of support groups, including both online and in-person groups.
Online support groups
Online support groups or message boards can be very helpful, especially if a caregiver works full-time in addition to caregiving, or if they’re in a rural area. Sometimes it’s also nice to have like-minded individuals available any time of the day or night or be able pop in at one’s own leisure, according to individual needs and schedules. If someone is looking for an online support group:"
- Check out our AlzheimersDisease.net Facebook page.
- Check out Memory People1, a group on Facebook.
- Try searching on Facebook using various keywords, like Alzheimer’s caregiving or Alzheimer’s support.
- Check out ALZConnected, a free online community hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association that has tailored spaces for caregivers, patients, and family members.2
In-person support groups
While online support groups are wonderful, an in-person support group can provide caregivers with a physical space that’s all theirs; a space in which to share and let go, and be welcomed and supported. Being around other people who are in a similar situation can improve one’s mood and help a person feel connected, as well. There are nuances in person that one can’t get online – hugs, smiles, hearing the tone of comments, etc.
If a caregiver is looking for an in-person support group, ask the doctor that the person with Alzheimer’s sees; these specialists often provide family and friends with resources, including information about support groups. Caregivers can also check the local hospital or community center; there is often a bulletin board with an array of events and support groups that are offered. Googling local support groups in the area may also yield results, and on the Alzheimer’s Association website there is a page where people can type in their area to find local resources and support groups.3
It is worth mentioning that the Alzheimer's Association also has a 24/7 hotline that can be called any time for advice, help, or support: 800-272-3900.
Caregiver support is important
Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s can be taxing, and caregivers should feel supported in every possible way. If caregivers don’t take care of themselves, it can make it that much harder to take care of someone else. A support group can be a positive way to be part of a social network, learn caregiving tips, learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, practice self-care, and foster connection among others who understand the demands of caregiving.