The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Support Groups, Pt. 1: Why You Need One

support group

Individual care partners coming together to share, learn and encourage.

Past blogs have mentioned how important we feel it is to be a part of a caregiver support group. In our latest book, Responsive Dementia Care, we wrote:
There are many excuses for not attending a support group:
  • I don't have time, or the energy.
  • I don't want to listen to other people whine.
  • I don't want to talk about my loved one--it sounds disrespectful.
  • I'm awfully private, I'd never be able to talk to strangers.
  • And so on.
But group members tell a different story:
  • I don't know what I'd have done without my group!
  • My support group gives me strength to keep on.
  • I can talk about my loved one here and the group members understand; they've been there. They know my loved one's behavior is dementia-caused, not personal.
  • I learn new ideas, new ways to do things, new resources."
  • I come away from the group feeling stronger. How do caregivers survive without a support group?
Support groups do all of that and more. They relieve loneliness from the isolation that is endemic with dementia care partners. The feeling that you aren't alone on this journey can be a great stress reducer and depression chaser.

Our book, A Caregiver's Guide to Lewy Body Dementia, talked about the value of being able to vent and share experiences in support groups:
"Thank goodness I have my support group. When my health aide insisted that I try going, I wasn’t sure I should leave Emma that long. But I come back feeling so much better and more able to cope. You can relate. I hate to bore my friends with my ups and downs and besides, they don’t really understand. My family supports me but they don’t understand either. You can’t if you haven’t lived it. -- Howard
Howard’s group relates. He can vent and his group knows he is simply frustrated, he doesn’t want out. He can ask, “How do you handle this?” and get answers from others who have had the same problem. He can make jokes about his situation and his group members aren’t shocked; they laugh with him. He goes home feeling better about himself and his situation.

In a well-run group, venting isn't the whining mentioned earlier as an excuse not to attend. It is instead, a needed release of frustration, usually followed by some supportive a few "I've been there too" comments from other group members, followed in turn by some constructive suggestions about what worked and didn't work for them in that situation.

Next week: What to look for in a good support group.

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