Support Groups for Caregivers
Being a caregiver can take a lot of energy, especially for a loved one with Alzheimer's. Caregivers face not only the general stressors of caregiving but also deal with the disease-specific effects of Alzheimer's on a loved one. This adds an emotional layer and additional stress to the role of caregiving. Alzheimer's caregiver support groups exist so that no one has to go through the journey alone.
With accompanying demands, caregiver support becomes even more important. If a caregiver is physically, emotionally, or psychologically drained, it is going to be harder for them to be there in any and every way for their loved ones.
A note on support groups in general
Support groups are a great way to develop a social network of people going through similar experiences; connections through shared experiences are beneficial for a variety of reasons. They validate our experience, make us feel seen, and heard.
Some support groups are led by trained professionals, while others are facilitated by peers who have been trained in support group dynamics and facilitation. Depending on what a person may be looking for, one is not necessarily better than the other.
What to expect at a caregiver support group
Caregiver support group participants can share experiences, troubleshoot specific issues, learn new ways to cope, techniques, feel more empowered, and build connections with people who "get it."
What works for one person may not work for another, so if it doesn't "click" with a support group at first, give it another chance or two before making a final decision. 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 when a caregiver is balancing many responsibilities in addition to caregiving. This may also be a more feasible option if in a rural area. Sometimes it is also nice to have like-minded individuals available any time of the day or night. With the ability to pop in at your own leisure, according to individual needs and schedules. The following are great options for online support groups:
- Check out our AlzheimersDisease.net Facebook page!
- Memory People1: a group on Facebook.
- Try searching on Facebook using various keywords, like Alzheimer's caregiving or Alzheimer's support.
- ALZConnected: a free online community hosted by the Alzheimer's Association.2
In-person support groups
While online support groups are wonderful, an in-person support group can provide caregivers with a physical space that is all theirs; a space in where caregivers can share, gripe, support, and welcome one another. Being around other people who are in similar situations can improve one's mood and help build connections, as well.
When looking for an in-person support group, ask the doctor managing your loved ones' Alzheimer's. These specialists can often provide family and friends with resources and insight, including information about support groups.
Caregivers can also check the local hospital or community center. Google can also help locate support groups in the area may yield results and on the Alzheimer’s Association website you can search by your zip code or state to find local resources and support groups.3
Alzheimer's Association hotline
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.
Support is important, YOU are important
Taking care of someone with Alzheimer's can be taxing and, at times, overwhelming. Caregivers should feel supported in every possible way. Taking care of yourself makes the task of caring for others much easier. Support groups are a positive way to be part of a social network, learn tips, learn more about the condition, practice self-care, and foster connection among others who understand the demands of caregiving. Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.