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Welcome to CareNotes. In this special section we will feature a reader's letter and provide an opportunity for an interactive exchange that will help find some answers and possible solutions to concerns. If you wish to respond to this letter, simple follow the link provided at the end of the letter and add your comments and thoughts to our CareNotes Board.

This Week's Carenote - 8/25/10

I am very interested in starting up a support group in Dubuque County, Iowa where I live.  I've already called local area agencies and hospitals and have found none listed for this particular area. 

As a family caregiver myself, I feel there is a strong need to have a support group.  I am asking whether you can provide me with a little guidance.  I would like to know who to contact who could help me get something started.
Thanking you in advance for your assistance,


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Name: Joanne Reynolds
Location: Crested Butte, CO
Date: 08/26/2010
Time: 04:08 PM


Hi KJ-- It's actually pretty easy to start a support group. You only need two things-- caregivers and a place to meet. We use my home church, though it did take some patience while they figured out where in the church we could meet and when. I found the caregivers by word-of-mouth and by putting announcements in the local newspaper and on the local radio station. I also took announcements around to our four other churches to be sure they got into the Sunday bulletins. I did call the local nursing home, the local assisted living facility and the county office of senior resources to let them know, too. I have gotten referrals to the group through them over the two-and-a-half years we've been meeting. I also "salted the mine" a bit by inviting the director of our regional Alzheimer's Association office to come talk at the first meeting. She was a great draw in part because it's at least a three hour drive to that office, so having her come here was terrific. Don't worry about numbers. Our group ranges from as few as two to as "many" as eight. What matters is that caregivers need support and the ones who REALLY need help will show up. I hope this is helpful. Blessings, Joanne

Name: Sue Seefeldt
Location: Wautoma, Wisconsin
Date: 08/25/2010
Time: 02:09 PM


Hi, I read your note about starting a caregiver support group. I am the facilitator for the caregiver supprot group here in my County and I can tell you it is a vital tool for the caregivers. I would sugest you contact your County Department of Aging or Aging And Disability Resource Center as they may have information for you. You can also check into Caregiver Programs at the state level and they may link you to someone in your area. There are many good sites on the internet that will walk you through starting a support group. If you don't find help at the County level, perhaps a church group would be willing to offer a location and help. Best of luck to you in your caregiving challenges and in starting a support group. It always amazes me how much the caregivers help each other! Sue

Name: Yvonne
Location: South Dakota
Date: 08/25/2010
Time: 10:37 AM


Contact this dept: SCENIC VALLEY AREA VIII AGENCY ON AGING Serving: Delaware, Dubuque, and Jackson Counties Director: Linda McDonald Address: 3505 Stoneman Road Suite 4 Dubuque, IA 52002-5218 Phone: 563/588-3970 Fax: 563/588-1952 Email Address: Web Site: Below is an article from this website. I hope this helps! Tools For Starting a Caregiver Support Group By Kristine Dwyer, LSW Starting a caregiver support group takes time, energy, organization and an ongoing commitment. It is not a one-person job but it does usually need at least one energetic, organized person to start the group and share enthusiasm for its success. Here are some useful suggestions for developing your own caregiver support group: Select a group facilitator that has a background in gerontology, social work, nursing or other human service field and has knowledge of caregiving resources. Look for someone who is empathetic, a good listener and assertive enough to balance the group to encourage participation and prevent monopolizing conversations. Choosing the proper meeting site may depend on space and availability, however, accessibility and personal comfort are two important factors to consider. Some suggestions are: public library, hospital, senior center, church, or a community room in a senior housing building. All of these places should be available free of charge. Some groups have met in a place where they can also bring their loved one/care receiver such as an adult day care center or a public library reading area. Review group interaction guidelines that set the tone for confidentiality, a non-threatening environment, openness to freely share, avoiding side conversations, interruptions and giving each person a chance to speak. Be careful to stay focused on the purpose of the caregiver support group and not to turn meetings into gripe sessions. Try to keep a positive atmosphere that not only offers support during difficult times but also brings options and hope for caregivers. For example, the National Parkinson Foundation suggests that their support groups be self-help groups run by and for people with a common challenge or life situation. The group is not for therapy or a 12-step program. Choose a time and date that will be most convenient for caregivers. Monthly groups during the late afternoons or early evenings have been the most popular or you may wish to alternate day and evening meetings. Brown bag lunch gatherings or dessert events can also be successful. The length of the meeting time should not exceed two hours. Plan at least a month ahead to allow time for advertising the group and maintain a consistent schedule. Announce the caregiver support group through community event calendars in the local newspapers or on cable networks, post flyers at the library, grocery stores, clinic waiting rooms and other public places or send announcements to churches, dining sites and service organizations that reach out to caregivers and seniors. Expect the attendance of the group to ebb and flow especially in the early months as the group is forming. Encourage family members as well as friends to attend the meetings. A core group may begin to emerge after several months as participants find mutual support and bond with others in the group. Regular attendance also increased when tasks were delegated and participants played a part in the group such as helping to set up the resource table, bringing treats, handing out nametags, or welcoming newcomers. Another option is to offer free blood pressures or prize drawings for massages, meal coupons or other items that support caregivers and encourage attendance. As the group develops, keep it small. The purpose of the group is to allow time for each person to listen and share, but this becomes more difficult if the group size exceeds 12. You may want to consider splitting the group if it becomes too large and impersonal. Spend the first few meetings getting to know each other and identifying the needs and interests of the group. Educational speakers, videos and presentations can be scheduled later on. Some groups have decided to alternate between having a speaker one month and open discussion the next month. Create a buddy system and a phone roster so that participants can call upon each other for help and support between group meetings. Finally, remember that each group is as unique as its leadership and members. Make the most of that uniqueness and build on the groupís strengths and ideas. Caregiver groups are designed to offer mutual support, resources, education and hope for the future. Kristine Dwyer is the Caregiver Consultant and Group Facilitator for Carlton County Public Health, Cloquet, Minnesota

Name: Chris Cremean
Location: Toledo Ohio
Date: 08/25/2010
Time: 08:53 AM


I have started a company called Caregiver Resources Group, LLC. My suggestion is to find a good resource person in your area and create a program where you can get advocacy-education-referrals. Please check out my website for more information,

Date: 08/25/2010
Time: 08:18 AM


It might help if you contacted the Area Agency on Aging in your area.

Name: Lauren Watral
Location: Raleigh, NC
Date: 08/25/2010
Time: 06:18 AM


I lead a support group for Adult Children of Aging Parents in Raleigh, NC and would be delighted to give you ideas.

Name: Bette Koch
Location: West Bend Wisconsin
Date: 08/25/2010
Time: 06:11 AM


Try contacting your county Office on Aging & Disability for support-I started a group seven years ago and we are still going strong but with membership changes as caregiver changes occured- the County office gives us a meeting room, provides caregiver coverage at our meeting site and produces and mails out my newsletter all at no cost to our group--counties are really supportive of caregiver help--good luck with your efforts-email me at if you would like to know more about our group.



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