When someone has never been to a caregiver’s support group meeting, the notion of attending can be a bit daunting. The misconception and thought of having to bare your soul and shortcomings in a room filled with strangers is not something that anyone in their right mind would look forward to doing. But the reality is that no one is required to speak or share. They just need to show up willing to listen and learn. Having a sense of humor can be especially helpful as is a few tissues. A good support group has laughter, an occasional tear, and a lot of helpful advice from others who are walking the same path. These meetings ensure that no one journeys alone. They are one of the most important resources available to Alzheimer’s Caregivers.
The right support group offers more benefits than most families can even imagine. Throughout the long course of this disease, everything continues to change. Just as no two people with dementia are the same, the needs and desires of caregivers varies every bit as much as the similarities and differences of any individual. And yet, they all benefit from the sense of empowerment that these groups provide.
Support groups were never intended to be merely a woe-is-me meeting. Rather, they continue to be a great source for education, referrals, and emotional support. Families can learn about dementia, adopt new coping skills, and acquire effective caregiving techniques. From each other, they receive acceptance, understanding, guidance and recognition. Equipped with a renewed confidence they feel stronger in mind and spirit. They are armed with the knowledge needed to tackle the barrage of challenges and better prepared to expect the unexpected.
Keep in mind that support groups are not all created equal. Which is most likely why people tend to either love them or hate them. Sometimes it’s because they’ve attended a poorly conducted or unorganized group resulting in a bad experience, then vow to never return. And, there are some caregivers totally averse to support groups. They have already made up their mind that they don’t need “support” and are certain that these groups are simply not for them. But surprisingly, many of these same people have never even attended one meeting. Maybe it’s because they didn’t know or understand what goes on behind the closed doors. They have never heard the laughter or felt the kindness. They missed a chance to be reminded that each of us as caregivers are truly doing the best we can, but still want to do better.
Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity. It’s the best place to find a group of positive minded individuals, all with a common desire to learn how to care compassionately and effectively. If you or someone you know had a terrible experience, then it just wasn’t the right group. Perhaps, it was too big, too small, too far or not the best time of day. This is not a disease to go-it-alone. Look for a group that is a good fit for you personally and give it a try. Or consider going back to a previous support group or a new one at least one more time. You can easily find a complete list of local support groups in your community by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association or other dementia specific web sites.