5 Reasons to Try a Support Group – Even If You Don’t Want To
How and Why You May Benefit from Peer Support
By Polly Logan, PAC Team Member
Are you caring for a person living with dementia? If you are, a support group can be an essential resource. If you’re a bit skeptical about joining a support group, read on to learn why it might be worth a try.
1. Form Connections
Many of us have heard the research about social isolation being as detrimental to our health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder.1 Being even a part-time care partner for someone living with dementia requires a great deal of time and energy. When coupled with employment and other family commitments, there is often not much time left for socializing or connecting with others. This can lead to isolation and loneliness. Support groups can provide you a social and emotional connection with those that are sharing similar experiences, which is vital for your health. These groups provide a safe space to vent frustrations and share joys. Because the others in the group are having similar experiences to yours, you may find that you feel truly heard and understood in a deeper way. You may also find that support group members are able to relate to each other in ways that other friends or relatives may not be able to understand. Many individuals in support groups have formed lifelong friendships.
2. Share Experiences
Besides emotional connections, care partner support groups offer the opportunity for individuals to share experiences, tips, and advice. Those in the support group are often at a variety of stages of the journey, so they may have very practical and helpful suggestions for challenges you are currently facing. You may be able to feel that you have helped others by offering advice to them, as well. Support group members may further be able to assist you by offering you a new perspective on a situation you are encountering. Sharing real-life experiences with others can often be more engaging than reading a care partner book alone.
3. Gain Knowledge
Some support groups are simply designed for a group of individuals to meet and share experiences and emotional support. Some, however, are designed with an educational component, with professionals sharing their knowledge. They can help you understand more about a particular condition and the why behind certain situations you may be facing. Some support groups also allow the opportunity to learn new skills or techniques to improve the care and support you provide. For an example of a support group with an educational component, learn about the Care Partner Support Series from Positive Approach to Care® here.
4. Find Resources
Besides offering emotional support, support groups for care partners can be an excellent source for additional resources. They might provide lists of learning materials, websites, or classes. They may host interesting speakers, connect you with care organizations, or recommend local professionals to assist you on the journey. A support group can be a gateway to further connections and resources, and help you build your care team.
5. Explore Virtual Advantages
Support groups vary widely, from small groups that meet together on a weekly basis, to larger groups that meet monthly, and everything in between. Although there are some individuals that prefer to meet in person with others, virtual support groups have become increasingly popular in the past few years. One advantage to a virtual support group is that it provides an accessible and convenient option for your busy schedule. There is no travel time required, no need to find someone to take over care duties, and no need to remove your comfortable slippers! Another advantage of a virtual support group is that it can allow several members of your family to attend, even if they do not live near each other. This can enable your family to seek support together and feel connected across the miles. A virtual support group can also provide more of an anonymous experience, if you may feel more comfortable discussing your situations with others who are not part of your local community. A virtual support group that includes participants from outside of your country can truly help foster a global community, as we realize that those all around the world have very similar care partner situations.
Care partnering with someone living with dementia can be a very challenging endeavor and support groups are an excellent way to form emotional connections, share experiences, gain knowledge, and find additional resources - and you can even participate from the comfort of your own home, if you choose. If you’re not sure how to find a care partner support group, try contacting your local aging agencies, dementia education organizations, faith community, or search online. The benefits provided by a support group can significantly help improve the care and support that you are able to offer your loved one in their journey.
1. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D. Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspect Psychol Sci, 2015 Mar; 10(2):227-37.
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