By Elizabeth Guttenberg, LMSW, Senior Care Advisor
When my dad was diagnosed with ALS my freshman year of high school, I knew basically nothing about the illness—how it would progress, the emotional and physical toll it would take on my family, and what I would need to know and do as a caregiver. So, to the dismay of my French teacher, I got permission to skip her class once a month and attend an ALS support group with my dad.
Although now I sometimes wish I could speak more than five words in French, I will never regret joining that group. In addition to educating me about my father’s illness, it connected me with people who really understood the challenges that he and my family were facing. As you have probably learned, even the most supportive and compassionate colleagues, friends and relatives may have difficulty comprehending how complex and all-consuming caregiving can be. So if you are still on the fence about joining a support group, consider these specific benefits:
- Resources and equipment. Learn what resources are available in your community for caregivers and which ones are worth pursuing. Get contact information for experts who can help you navigate Medicare and Medicaid, legal conundrums, home modifications, and more. Ask group members what doctors, counselors, and other healthcare providers have been most helpful. Learn about equipment you might need, how to pay for it, and how to use it.
- Emotional support. Through sharing feelings, experiences—such as daily accomplishments and challenges—and even “inside jokes” unique to seasoned caregivers, group members can become strong emotional supports for one another. Groups offer a safe space to open up about feelings of anger, sadness and frustration, without worrying about troubling or hurting loved ones, or judgement from others. Moreover, empathy and understanding from other group members will remind you that these emotions are a normal part of the caregiving experience, and alleviate the resulting depression, guilt and isolation that many caregivers tend to feel.
- A chance to help others. Each time your group takes in a caregiving newcomer who feels lost, in shock, grief-stricken, or completely befuddled about how to begin the caregiving journey, you will have an opportunity to change that person’s life with your wise encouragement and useful suggestions. You may not even realize how far you’ve come until you support someone else—and that will be a great confidence boost for you, too.
Convinced? As your next step, I encourage you to get in touch with a Care.com Senior Care Advisor. We can find out what support groups are available to you anywhere around the country—including those tailored to your specific situation. For example, if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, our team can scour your area to see if there’s a support group specifically for Alzheimer’s caregivers. And consider speaking with your human resources department, as your workplace may even offer support groups on-site.
Contact a Senior Care Advisor at Care.com. We are master’s-level social workers specializing in adult and senior care.
Call us today at (855) 781-1303 x3 or email questions to email@example.com