Non-caregivers often struggle to understand the experiences of people dedicated to caring for a loved one. Caregiving’s physical and emotional demands are hard to communicate, and many caregivers are reluctant to discuss the details with people who lack the context to truly empathize. This disconnection is one reason caregivers become lonely and disengaged from their social circle, which in turn leads to emotional isolation and possible burnout.
But caregivers don’t have to go it alone. People in similar circumstances around the country regularly meet to talk and share advice in support groups. If you’re feeling stressed, are worried that you can’t cope, or if you simply want to talk to someone, a support group will connect you to people who will listen, offer advice, and provide practical guidance.
What Are the Benefits of Joining a Caregiver Support Group?
There are many benefits to joining a group of people who understand your position and are prepared to offer help and support.
Learning from Experienced Caregivers
Experienced caregivers have a wealth of experience. They’ve faced and overcome challenges, researched strategies and caregiving techniques, bought and assessed equipment, and lived with the realities of caregiving, both rewarding and challenging. Their experience is a valuable resource for people new to caregiving, and even long-time caregivers will pick up tips from other people in their support group.
Sharing Experiences with People Who Understand
Even when a caregiver is surrounded by people who are ready and willing to help, caregiving can be isolating. We are inherently social beings, but it is difficult to make meaningful connections when no one around us shares our experiences. The people involved in caregiver support groups understand: they’ve been through the same ups and down you have.
A Confidential and Non-Judgmental Environment
Caregiver support groups take confidentially very seriously, and many will have clearly articulated confidentiality policies. Of course, there will always be individuals who break the rules, but most support groups and the people who run them are scrupulous when it comes to maintaining a safe environment for caregivers to share.
Additionally, caregivers are often reluctant to share their experiences and ask for help because they fear being judged by those around them. Caregiving is rewarding, but it may also give rise to feelings of anger and frustration. Other caregivers understand, and support groups are often the ideal place to vent frustrations without fear of judgment.
What Types of Caregiver Support Group Are Available
There are many different types of caregiver support groups, but we’ll take a brief look at four categories: first, general and condition-specific groups, and second, online and offline groups.
Some support groups focus on caregiving in general or for broad categories of caregivers. For example, you will find caregiver support groups for older caregivers, those who care for adult children, spouses, and so on. There are also more specific groups focused on particular conditions: caring for people with Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and more.
Unless your location is very isolated, you will almost certainly find a general in-person caregiver support group nearby, but you may have to travel further to find a condition-specific group, although larger cities have support groups for most conditions.
Online caregiver support groups are just as valuable, and they became a vital lifeline for many during the COVID–19 pandemic. A key benefit of online support groups, which are often web forums or Facebook groups, is that they are not limited to a particular location and you don’t have to travel. That makes them ideal for people who cannot find a suitable local in-person group. However, there are privacy implications to using online groups, and you should be careful not to share too much personal information with strangers.
How To Find a Caregiver Support Group
To finish, we’d like to share some resources to help you find an online or offline caregiver support group:
- Caregivers Connect is a Facebook group focused on bringing caregivers together in a supportive community.
- The AARP Online Community is a large online forum that provides advice and support about a vast range of caregiving topics.
- The Community Resource Finder is a joint venture by the AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association that helps caregivers to find events, local support groups, and more.
- The Family Caregiver Alliance provides state-by-state resource listings, which include support groups.
- There are large private Facebook groups and associations focused on specific conditions, such as Memory People and The Purple Sherpa Basecamp for Alzheimer’s and the Dementia Caregivers Support Group and Caring for a Spouse with Dementia.
- Advocacy and support groups for specific conditions are often an excellent source of information about support groups, including the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Stroke Association, the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.