Home caregivers often feel as if they need to be superhuman. No matter how willingly they may decide to become caregivers, there are bound to be times when the demands that are placed on them get to be a little too much. That’s why having a strong support network is so important.
Ideally, your network is large and wide, and includes people who can actually jump in and physically give you a hand (or some time off) when things get to be stressful. Your group should also include people who can help you keep mentally healthy.
Understanding friends and relatives are definitely valuable, but sometimes you need a little more: you need someone who has actually been through what you are going through, and who knows firsthand the trials that you’re enduring. You need a real support group.
Why a support group?
Other members of a support group can relate personally to the things you say. They can offer comfort that comes from a deep understanding of your situation. They may not only be able to provide encouragement, but also specific advice, by saying “Here’s how I coped with that” or “Have you tried doing so-and-so?”
Joining a caregiver support group and attending meetings regularly can also benefit you by providing a tight bond that makes you feel less isolated. Committing to such a group will likely make you feel better about yourself and help you to take care of your own needs without neglecting those of your loved one.
Finding a support group
Before trying to find a support group, ask yourself what kind of group you need. Would you just like to be with others who are caring for people of a certain age, or would you rather find a group that focuses on caring for individuals with specific conditions? Is transportation an issue for you (in which case maybe an online or telephone-based group might be an alternative)? What kinds of questions do you want to discuss?
Once you have an idea of what you would ideally like, see what options are available. The doctor of your care recipient may already know of some support groups or may know where you should look. Community and senior centers, libraries, religious organizations, and hospitals may have helpful information. Look for local chapters of foundations that focus on your loved one’s condition. Also, don’t forget about government resources, such as the mayor’s help line.
Home caregivers can also look beyond their own backyards. Go online to search out regional or national support groups that you can reach out to via the internet or phone.
No caregiver can do everything alone. Consider whether a support group can help you better manage stress, and therefore better manage everything in your life.