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Support Group Savvy

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

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“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.”   Flora Edwards

According to Webster’s dictionary, the word “support” means to give courage or faith to; help, comfort; to carry the weight of; to give approval to, be in favor of or uphold. All of these words describe the framework around which support groups are built. They offer a place for caregivers and families to learn together, deal with feelings of frustration, sadness or isolation, and “link arms” with others that have a mutual understanding. Support groups can also validate a caregiver’s identity and give them permission to care for themselves throughout the caregiving journey.

A caregiver support group provides information about helpful resources as well as generates camaraderie. Seasoned caregivers can share their collective wisdom and help those who are less experienced to contend with the difficult aspects of caregiving. Finding home care services, pre-planning legal affairs, applying for financial help, or preparing to move a loved one into a care facility can all be daunting events, yet group members can help each other to take these steps.

There’s another important benefit that a support group can provide. People facing a similar experience need to find hope for the future, laugh about the “humorous” aspects of their lives, enjoy social activities and have fun together! What better group of people to connect with than those who walk in the same shoes?

Why Join A Support Group?

The advantages of joining a support group are limitless. Some of the best reasons to join include:

  • Sharing common experiences and learning coping strategies

  • Exploring and sharing solutions to problems

  • Finding emotional outlets and receiving support from peers

  • Forming new friendships and discovering a sense of community

  • Developing new skills through education

  • Helping others while still helping yourself

Finding a Local Group

Acknowledging the need for support and then locating a group are the first
 steps in becoming involved. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, churches, nursing homes, and local chapters of disease-specific programs such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS or cancer often sponsor support groups. These groups may be advertised through the local papers, on the radio, at clinics, on community bulletin boards or through the local social service or Area Agency on Aging programs. Meetings may be scheduled on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, during daytime or evening hours. Since caregiving can fully consume one’s daily schedule and limit participation, many programs may offer on-site or in-home respite care for the care recipient to allow caregivers the freedom to attend a group.


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