Becoming a family caregiver can be an incredibly isolating experience for many. When you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, hopeless, or alone, it may feel like there’s no one out there who understands. Your family, friends, and even the loved one in your care may not empathize with your position. Attending a support group (either virtually or in-person) can help you see how much company you actually have.
Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States are family or informal caregivers. Almost 16 million of that total are caring for someone with some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. That’s tens of millions of people who can closely relate to your experience. As a caregiver, it’s easy to feel alone, but it’s important to remember that you’re not. That’s why attending a support group can be an incredibly helpful and therapeutic experience for family caregivers.
4 Benefits of Joining a Support Group
As we’ve touched on, becoming a caregiver can be an incredibly isolating experience. One of the major benefits of joining a support group is that it can provide you with some much-needed social and mental support. It’s incredibly freeing to have your experience recognized and respected by someone who has been in your shoes before. This is something many caregivers cannot find in their existing circles. If social support isn’t enough to convince you, here are four additional benefits of joining a support group.
Reduce your risk of anxiety, depression, or burnout
Caregivers are at an elevated risk of anxiety, depression, and burnout when compared to the general population.
Many caregivers experience feelings of guilt when they spend time on themselves instead of on their aging or ailing loved one. This may cause you to work longer or harder hours than are good for you. Over time, this may lead to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Having a group to discuss the details of care, help you find additional resources, offer advice, encourage you to take time for yourself, and more, can help you avoid the risks of burnout, depression, and anxiety.
Information, advice, and recommended resources
A group of caregivers working together can pool their knowledge, experiences, and resources. A support group can help keep you in the loop on experimental treatments, recommended doctors, tips for managing insurance claims, advice from personal experience and research, and more. By working together, you can all benefit and learn from one another.
It is an unfortunately common experience—many caregivers feel they lack the necessary training to handle the medical tasks they’re asked to manage.
Caregivers are asked to handle a lot. As a caregiver, you fill some major gaps in the United States healthcare system. You may need to dispense medications, clean wounds, manage incontinence, administer injections, navigate the healthcare and insurance systems, and more.
Having some connections who have already learned the skills that you’re now tasked with can help to ease some of the stress associated with trying something new. It also gives you somewhere to go beyond the doctor him or herself when and if you have questions.
Having someone to lean on
When the days start to feel long, or you feel as though the world caving in (metaphorically), it’s important to have someone there who can pick you back up when you fall.
Words of advice or comfort from a non-caregiver friend may feel hollow. While their intentions may be in the right place, sometimes we simply need advice from someone who’s been there. Your support group can help you find someone (or an entire group of people) to lean on when the going gets tough.
How to Find a Support Group
If you’re looking for a support group near you or an online community of support, here are some resources and places to look:
- Local hospitals
- The Area Agency on Aging in your area (use your zip code on the Eldercare Locator to find the one nearest to you)
- Specific health condition websites and nonprofits, (examples include the Alzheimer’s Association, American Stroke Association, American Cancer Society, the Parkinson’s Foundation, the American Diabetes Association, etc.)
- The California Caregiver Resource Center nearest to you
- Personal recommendation: ask your friends and family if they’ve heard of any support groups near you.
- Facebook groups
Caregiving can be difficult and isolating, but you don’t have to do it alone. Finding a support group of people who have been in your shoes before can help you learn new skills, find a shoulder to lean on, avoid anxiety and depression, and find new resources.
The role of caregiver is always tough, but you’re part of a large, strong, and helpful community of people including and beyond your family who have been in your shoes. The California Caregiver Resource Centers were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, which can talk more about local programs and support groups for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.Share this post: