How Support Groups Can Help Caregivers

caregivers support groupAccording to recent studies, there are an estimated 66 million caregivers in the United States who provide unpaid care to someone who is ill, disabled or aging. Of that 66 million, close to 7 million provide care to an elderly loved one in need of assistance with daily living activities, like grooming or eating. Caregivers often report they are challenged by finding enough time to attend to their own needs, and consequently, their health and mental state begin to deteriorate.

This is where joining a caregivers support group can really help those family caregivers. The word “support” is defined in many ways: to bear or hold up, to sustain or withstand, to undergo or endure, to sustain under trial or affliction, to maintain by supplying things necessary for existence, or provide for. Caregivers support groups not only provide resources and information, but caregivers can also form friendships and generate camaraderie with others who are sharing similar experiences.

The Advantages of Joining a Caregivers Support Group

Connecting with others who are essentially facing the same types of issues as you are in your caregiving duties provides numerous benefits. The first step is to locate a caregiver support group in your area. If you aren’t sure you have the time to get away for an hour or so on a weekly or monthly basis, some groups may offer on-site or in-home respite care services to allow you a reprieve from caregiving. Or, you can even consider joining a caregiver support group online. This way, you can receive the support you need from the comfort of your own home. Online groups provide the same positive benefits as in-person groups, too.

No matter how you go about getting the caregiver support you need, the advantages of joining a support group are endless. Some of the benefits you’ll experience include:

  • A chance to share common experiences. If you feel like you’re the only one who is dealing with a difficult caregiving situation, a support group can put that idea to rest. You’ll meet individuals who probably experience very similar situations day in and day out, and just talking about them gives peace of mind and can lead to you being a better caregiver, plus validate any feelings you might be having.
  • Learning coping strategies. Support groups offer a way to learn new coping strategies by talking to others. Even when you feel like you’re doing just fine, caregiving duties can ultimately begin to take a toll. You’ll be able to discuss what worked for others, finding solutions to common issues.
  • Receiving affirmation that attending to your own needs is vital. Caregivers can often feel guilty about leaving their loved one for any length of time, taking the full burden of their care needs. However, support groups can reaffirm the importance of taking care of yourself; that it’s not selfish to attend to your own needs.
  • Forming friendships to help avoid isolation. Isolation can also become a problem for caregivers, who get so involved in caregiving that their world becomes quite limited. A support group provides not only a way to meet new friends with common interests, but also to avoid isolation that can lead to loneliness and depression.
  • The opportunity to help others. The skills you’ve acquired as a caregiver can be shared with others. In a caregivers support group, you’ll be able to support and help others while receiving the support you need, too.

Being a family caregiver is a challenging, yet very rewarding experience. Don’t forget to attend to your own needs for your own quality of life. If you aren’t sure where to find a caregiver support group, check with a local Area Agency on Aging.

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