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Starting and Running A Caregiver Support Group
Depending on the disease or illness, you
should talk to local physicians that treat patients with
that disease. He or she will refer caregivers of
patients living with that illness to you. Maybe
the doctor will even post a flyer in the office.
Remember, whoever the contact person is,
he or she should always remember that the first contact
is the most IMPORTANT! This person may be the
deciding factor when a caregiver is considering
attending the first meeting.
If you are choosing a local medical
center as your site, post the meeting in their lobby,
and notify their employee newsletter. Often they
will make an announcement welcoming your support group.
Many times, public or community relations departments
will assist you so it never hurts to ask. Also, try to
speak at some of the nurses’ meetings and let them know
about the group. Nurses would be delighted to be able to
point a caregiver in the right direction for support.
Don’t forget, local TV and radio stations also accept
Public Service Announcements.
Now you have a list of names and
telephone numbers and where and when you think you would
like to meet.
The first gathering may be a small group
of five or six people. Still, a great deal can be
accomplished. Remember, sometimes it takes quite a while
to get the group up and running. Be patient, and
remember if you help just one person, you have done an
You might think that the challenge is
getting people to come to your first meeting, but it may
not be difficult at all. The real challenge is
getting them to keep coming back!
Set up two tables, for registration
and refreshments. Perhaps the co-leader or a
volunteer could be at the refreshment table and help
people get accustomed to the new environment.
The registration table should have a
dated sign-in sheet with a space for name, address,
phone number and e-mail address.
Arrange the seating in a circle or
semi-circle. This facilitates conversation and
a friendly atmosphere. Remember, your goal is to
provide an open environment for the exchange of
thoughts, feelings and information that doesn’t go
beyond the group setting. There should be room for
laughing, hugging, crying and bonding; or quietly
sitting and listening. Never let any one person take
over the conversation for too long; you should allow
everybody to get his or her chance to speak. You may
have to interrupt and say, “Maybe we should see what
Mary thinks about that.”
If you have a speaker, be sure to
allow time for a question and answer period
following the speaker.
Restate the primary goals of the
group; this will help to give the group direction.