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Providing Care

Finding — and Utilizing — Support Groups

Article Highlights

  • Know how to use your search engine
  • Contact your local hospital
  • Search for online support

Few things are as reassuring as knowing that others are dealing with the same issues confronting you. This is especially true when it comes to caregiving. No wonder so many people find great comfort in becoming part of a caregiver’s support group.

See also: 10 Ways to Deal with Caregiver Stress.

How to Find One

  • Begin your search online. Type in "caregiver support group" and your hometown into a search engine to see what pops up.
  • For condition-specific support groups, visit the website of the appropriate organization, such as the American Cancer Society or the Alzheimer’s Association. Those places can direct you to support groups in your neighborhood.
  •  If you can’t find a group just for caregivers, look for one for the disease or disability, and contact the organizer to find out if caregivers attend. If not, ask if caregivers are welcome. Hearing someone else share their struggles with an illness can give you valuable insight.
  • Contact your local hospital or university medical center and see what groups they offer. Or check with your faith community. If one doesn’t exist in your religious community, consider starting one.
  • You might also want to consider an online support group. Many people prefer the anonymity of the Internet and like the fact that they can get support on their own schedule. Look for one that feels right for you at http://www.aarp.org/online-community/groups/index.action?slGroupKey=Group92.

What to Expect

Ideally, you’ll find a support group that’s sponsored by a large organization and led by a professional who has experience with group dynamics. (Many are run by nurses or social workers who work with patients and their families.) In some cases, you may encounter a "peer led" support group, which is run by people in the group. In either case, talk to the group leader before you go so that you know what to expect. Then give it a try. If you don’t like it right away, attend another session or two before deciding if you feel informed — and supported — by the experience.

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