Over 34 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or over in the last year. (Source) Nearly three-quarters of them are women, and they tend to spend at least 50% of their time caring for their loved one.
It can be tough and isolating as you devote your time and energy to caring for your elderly loved one. But if you’re a caregiving child, spouse, or other relative, you’re in good company. Seeking out other caregivers can help you feel less alone.
Caregiver support groups are a great way to meet other caregivers, share ideas and resources, and commiserate with people who actually know what you’re going through.
Benefits of Support Groups for Caregivers
We’ve talked before about preventing caregiver burnout, and joining a support group can help with that. The other members of your support group can provide invaluable resources and information, as well as an objective look at how you’re doing and how close to burning out you are.
Here are the top benefits of joining a caregiver support group:
- Meeting with others in your situation will help you feel less lonely or isolated.
- Support groups are non-judgmental environments where members don’t question your devotion to your care recipient.
- Members of your support group can help you deal with the feelings of guilt, helplessness, anger, frustration, or other emotions that develop while caregiving.
- Participating in a support group will provide valuable resources to help you feel more empowered and in control.
- Your stress levels will go down when you have a supportive group of people rooting for you and providing information.
- You’ll develop a clearer understanding of your loved one’s condition and prognosis, from people who have “been there, done that.”
- Support groups are gold mines of practical advice, information about treatment options, reviews of hospitals, doctors, and long-term care facilities, and insurance problems.
- You’ll improve your quality of life and your ability to care for your loved one.
- With the help of your support group, you may be able to keep your loved one at home longer. And when it becomes time to move the patient to a skilled nursing facility, your group can help you deal with your conflicting emotions of guilt and relief.
- Your experience with caregiving can help others just starting out in the caregiving journey.
Where to Find Local Support Groups
First check with your local hospital or community center; they should have a complete list of all local groups. Many nursing facilities or adult day care centers will host support groups, so that’s also a good place to look. For instance, our own Regency Gardens in Wayne hosts a monthly support group for people who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
If you’re looking for a group that focused on your loved one’s specific conditions, check the websites associated with that condition. For example, the American Cancer Society has a searchable listing of local resources, including caregiver support groups, on their website.
Other common websites include:
While in-person meetings are the most beneficial, there are also countless facebook groups and online support groups for caregivers. If you find you really can’t get out to a weekly or monthly meeting, this might be a good substitute. Check here for a list of online support groups: https://www.seniorly.com/resources/articles/online-caregiver-support-groups
However you choose to get your support, joining a group will help you navigate the challenges of caregiving.