Date: March 10, 2022

Author: Dorothy Griffin

When life is busy, we are reluctant to add one more thing to do or be a part of. The typical family caregiver already has a full plate between taking care of the affairs of their own family and their work, and juggling their caregiving responsibilities.

So why should a caregiver join a support group? The answer is, you shouldn’t, unless it will benefit you and help to meet the needs you have. In order to evaluate this for yourself, below are some of the benefits you may receive from joining a caregiver support group.

  1. Realizing or affirming that you are not alone. Intrinsic in the support group environment is the opportunity to see that there are others going through the same things you are and likely experiencing some of the same challenges, frustrations, questions and emotions. While this does not make the challenges go away, it can be helpful to know that your response to them is normal and shared by others. It can be helpful just to know that other caregivers deal with caregiver guilt or anger or feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Discovering ideas and solutions. Because you face similar challenges to others in the group, you are also likely to hear how others have learned to solve a specific problem or cope through a particularly difficult situation. Many support groups also bring in speakers to address various relevant subjects.
  3. Sharing your own ideas and solutions. As a family caregiver, you have also become a valuable resource to other caregivers. You may not feel like it but you have likely become somewhat of an expert. You may share solutions you have found to the very people who are facing a similar issue or will face it soon.
  4. Seeing where you have come from. When the present is overwhelming, it can be difficult to step back and see what you have come through. Within a support group environment, it is not uncommon to be reminded of something from the past you survived that may have seemed insurmountable at the time. The support group environment can remind you of your resilience and the ways that you have been supported and helped along the way. This, in turn, can provide encouragement as you face the difficulties of the present and questions about the future.
  5. Understanding and supporting each other through it all. This can take so many different forms. The support group can give you people to share with, to laugh with, to cry with, to pray with, to be real with, to have fun with, and just to be with. One reality of family caregiving can be a sense of isolation. When a spouse begins to lose physical ability or memory, the couple may also suffer the loss of friendships built on activities that can no longer be enjoyed or friends who pull away for other reasons. Through a support group, you can build new relationships with people who are not only walking the same path, but who have also likely suffered similar losses.

If you find that the above needs are being met through family or friendships you already have, give thanks! A support group may not be necessary for you in this season. However, if you find yourself lacking connection with those who have been or are family caregivers, there are a number of different support group options available in New Hanover County and the surrounding areas.

For example, we have partnered with the New Hanover County Senior Center to host an art support group meeting every 2nd Tuesday at 1 PM at the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center. This format gives caregivers an opportunity to build relationships with other family caregivers while doing something fun.

Find out more about this group and other local groups on the Cape Fear Council of Governments website. (Make sure to contact the group to find out how and when they are meeting in case the information has not been updated.)

Since the pandemic, a number of support groups are also now available online. While you miss out on the personal interaction, these are great if you are not comfortable meeting in person, or your caregiving responsibilities make that difficult. You can search for a specific type of group, for example Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Stroke Recovery, etc. and have the opportunity to meet caregivers.

You can find suggestions about selecting the right group for you as well as links to national groups here on the AARP site..