As the caregiver for a spouse with dementia, I find myself struggling with many issues. Lack of sleep, loneliness, guilt, and fear are just a few.
While I’ve given up working to care for my husband, I still keep in touch with many of my former colleagues. Several have recently become caregivers too. I’ve also talked with church friends who are caregivers for a parent, a grandparent, and even neighbors.
It occurred to me that we might all benefit from starting a support group for caregivers. The catch is I don’t know how to go about doing so.
Do you have any tips I can use to get started? Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
The Benefits of Starting a Caregiver Support Group
What a great idea! Support from peers can be invaluable to caregivers. While some people prefer online caregiver support groups, the benefits of meeting face-to-face are numerous. A feeling of companionship and an opportunity to get out of the house are just two.
Here are a few tips on how to start a support group for caregivers:
- Determine interest: Do a quick survey of friends and colleagues to see how many people would be interested. Remember, not everyone you invite will accept. Some might find the idea of sharing their personal situation uncomfortable, and others won’t have time.
- Find a location: Once you have an idea of your group’s size, you can find a location. Local libraries, churches, synagogues, and senior centers often share space at no charge for caregiver support groups. Ask each potential location what days and times the meeting space is available.
- Establish a time: Share the location options with your group. It may be difficult to find a time everyone can come, so you will probably need to choose an option when most people are available. Moving forward, you might be able to make adjustments.
- Meet: It might be more productive to keep the plan for your first meeting somewhat open and flexible. The unstructured time will give members an opportunity to get to know one another and share their unique situations. Try to discuss future meeting format ideas, such as serving refreshments or keeping it simple, and if you want to invite speakers.
- Choose communication methods: Deciding on a method of communication is also important. It can be as simple as a group email. Setting up a private Facebook group is another option. They are free and easy to establish.
- Plan ahead: Before you leave the first meeting, you’ll probably want to set up a calendar for future meetings. Try to have each support group member sign up to oversee a specific meeting.
My last piece of advice is to ask members to maintain one another’s confidentiality. That will help encourage more sharing, especially of difficult feelings and situations.
Best of luck, Cindy!