Self Caring

DIY Caregiver Support Groups

Last updated: Jun 17, 2011

Neko Group Hug :)

Again and again, member caregivers talk about how their support groups save their lives (or, at least, their sanity). Literally, they say this: "My support group saves my life." "My support group keeps me sane." And Caring's geriatric experts often describe how they refer caregivers to support groups because they're among the few, but most critical, ways they can help families.

If you can't find one that works for you by calling your local Area Agency on Aging or asking at the doctor's office, you have another option. You can start your own: The do-it-yourself (DIY) support group.

If the very idea of "founding something" on top of everything else you're doing seems daunting, consider these advantages of DIY:

  • A group that you start is one that you can control the schedule and location. (Maybe you do it at your own home, so there's no travel necessary for you and your fellow caregivers wouldn't expect perfect tidiness.) If you live in a remote area, it may be hard for you to get to a big hospital-based meeting, yet there may be two or three other caregivers also in your area.

  • You can share with whomever you like. You can decide on the size, and whether it should be all kinds of caregivers, only those caring for someone with dementia, only women, only members of your church, or so on. A "support group" can be a fancy name for three friends who are all in caring situations and get together over coffee every Friday.

  • You can set the format. You might divide the time between sharing (a.k.a. venting) and learning, for example. Invite a guest speaker, perhaps from a local clinic or stress-management center. Or frame your support group like a book club -- pick books for caregivers or about the disease you're all dealing with. Discuss what you've learned -- then vent.

The Family Caregiver Alliance has pulled together a detailed how-to guide for those interested in starting support groups for families of brain-impaired adults.

If you've done this, please share any tips. Or if you're in any kind of support group, share why it helps and what you like about it, to help others structure a great and truly supportive support group.