How can I get my parent without Alzheimer's disease to go to a support group?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I get my parent without Alzheimer's disease to go to a support group?

Expert Answers

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

The best way to get your parent to try a support group is to figure out what kind of appeal will carry the most weight. You're certainly right to try, because support groups have many benefits for spousal caregivers.

Some ways to encourage attendance:

Explain what it's about. Call the group's leader to learn what to expect before you broach the subject, so you can describe exactly what will happen: Where it is, what kind of people are there, how the meeting proceeds.

Emphasize the benefits. Alzheimer's support groups for family members (some are even spouse-specific) will help your parent learn what to expect and practical ways to cope, while letting her meet others who are also experiencing what can be a lonely situation. Eventually a support group can be a welcome emotional outlet. Support groups also put caregivers in touch with many local resources they might not otherwise learn about, such as respite care. And attending gets your parent out of the house to do something just for herself.

Go with her. If your parent finds safety in numbers, this may soothe nerves. And if you're driving, she may be less likely to change her mind at the last minute.

Make it fun. Pair a meeting with a dinner date while someone else stays with your other parent.

Ask for a recommendation from the physician caring for your parent with Alzheimer's. Some older people are more likely to try a support group if it's "on doctor's orders."

Try saying, "Do it for me." If your parent is reluctant or even in denial about the disease, express that you're only thinking about her best interests, and you want her to feel happy and confident. Ask if she'll try a meeting "just once" because it would make you feel better knowing that she's at least checked out the options with an open mind.