What’s for Me at a Caregiver Support Group?

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Caregivers to other frail or cognitively impaired adults very often  become ill themselves and may actually be the one who is at greater RISK! Boca Home Care Services recommends Support Groups for any and all Caregivers – At least give one a try.


Whether a case of “birds of a feather”, “misery loves company” it just makes sense that speaking with others who have very similar circumstances as your own can be very helpful.

Fortunately there is a lot of information out there for anyone who cares to look. Each major Disease has a foundation  (Parkinson’s. Heart, Diabetes, Paralysis, Arthritis etc.) of its own which in addition to providing information about the disease, treatment and research, there is likely a Support Group. The information and the “support” is both for the patient and family/friend network.

Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia are a bit different. Due to the cognitive and memory impairment, once the disease has advanced, the patient cannot benefit so much from a support group. It is however the Primary Caregiver and other loved ones who will benefit the most from attending regularly or as needed, a Caregiver Support Group.

Due to the nature of diseases which affect cognition, judgement and memory, the caregiver must assume the roles that the patient used to manage for him or herself and the household. This is in addition to physical care and management of the person’s needs and schedules.

A Caregiver Support Group is a community resource. It will usually have a facilitator (someone knowledgeable about the disease), perhaps a co-facilitator, a regular meeting time and place, some core members, occasional members and newcomers.

You can find a group in your area by contacting the Alzheimer’s Association, Community Services to Seniors, Day Care centers, and Assisted Living Facilities which have Memory Units. Here in Palm Beach county there are many Caregiver Support Groups sponsored by: FAU Memory & Wellness Center, The Volen Center, Alzheimer’s Community Care, Jewish Family Service and  the Alzheimer’s Association.

What a relief to meet people who share your experience! Who know first hand what you are describing! Can finish your sentence! And walk sin your shoes!

Caregiver Support Groups provide a safe, confidential place for group therapy, information and emotional support – by others who truly understand your predicament because they are likely living it, have live it or will be.  Most are FREE.

It is the exchange of practical information, i.e. getting your loved one dressed, dealing with repetitive questions, wondering and so forth. How to deal with your loved one when you are exhausted, anxous, and at the end of your rope.

Besides the practical information gleamed on how to manage care, support groups for primary caregivers can help you understand your own complicated feelings about the situation – the anger, resentment, grief, impatience, frustration and other normal human reactions one can experience when being the primary caregiver.

People often think it is a “gripe-fest” or “cry-a thon” when the group is usually about providing support through mutual understanding via similar experiences and a sharing of information, practical and formal. Learning through others about Dementia medications, community resources, experimental studies and other research toward a cure.

Often the raw feelings associated with primary caregivers aren’t on display at a caregiver support group. If they are, the group dynamic is an excellent way to handle it and most likely the facillitator will speak with that person afterwards, lending more support and individualized resources.

If you aren’t comfortable sharing your feelings, then don’t.  Perhaps one day a topic will touch you, perhaps not but either way, the support of others who understand and the information received are valuable enough reasons to give a support group a try.

Boca Home Care Services recommends Caregiver Support groups at every stage of the caregiver experience. There is no pressure to speak or share. Go a few times, as these groups can be very diverse depending on who is there any given meeting and what topics are brought up – usually by group members.

After a few meetings, if you feel the group really isn’t for you, it may very well not be. You can notify the facilitator and find another group.

The “support” of the group is both emotional and informational between members. It is also time away from your role as caregiver and a time to even socialize a little.

Group members can help by letting you know things they have tried, and that have worked. One example from a group memberi was _ “hiring help a few times a week so I could play Bridge, get to my doctor and just stay in bed longer in the morning”.

The beauty of the group dynamic is the therapeutic give and take between attendees. You may surprise yourself, at a meeting, you may be te one sharing sound advice from your experience as a primary caregiver.