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Starting and Running A Caregiver Support Group

By Suzette Levy

(Page 4 of 6)

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.

First Meeting!

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 excellent job.

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.

 

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