Caregiver connection: benefits of support groups for caregivers

This content is sponsored by Brooke Grove Retirement Village

Though a labor of love, providing care to an aging parent or spouse is demanding work, sometimes making the caregiver feel lonely and depleted. In these cases, caregiver support groups can be a powerful source of hope, support and information when times become particularly challenging.

When an senior loved one needs help due to dementia or other age-related diseases, your life undergoes a dramatic change. Not only do your family roles change, but your everyday schedule does as well. You may also be mourning the loss of your loved one’s health, relationships, and authority.

It can feel exhausting trying to juggle these new challenges. Finding the right support group can remedy many of these problems and provide support that fits your situation.

  1. You will no longer feel alone. Those sitting with you are experiencing similar feelings and shifts in their relationships.

In fact, support groups can “improve social networks and they can reduce stigma, isolation and feelings of alienation among members,” according to the American Psychological Association.

You are not the only one who feels or has felt these things. The comfort of knowing someone understands can help you keep moving forward and adjust to the new needs of your parent or spouse.

  1. You won’t be judged.Sometimes you may feel you can’t vent frustrations to anyone around you, in part because speaking those feelings can come off as complaining.

In these situations, caregivers feel guilty for being frustrated or annoyed. They have no outlet to express these feelings, so they tend to explode at the wrong time, and possibly in inappropriate ways. In a support group, you will have people who are receptive to venting and frustration. They understand what you are going through and they want to help you express your feelings in a healthy situation.

  1. You will have a clearer understanding of what to expect. When you’re surrounded by others who better understand your intentions and feelings, it is easier to step back and look objectively at your situation. You are more open to accepting what the future holds for you and your parent or spouse. You are also more open to adjusting your plans as things change.
  2. You can get advice from those who already know about different clinics and treatments. The people in your support group will be at different places on their caregiver journey. It is possible some have already gone through the whole trial-and-error process in finding treatments and doctors that have worked for them. They can recommend treatments and combinations you might not have heard of.
  3. Depression, stress or anxiety are lessened. Consistent involvement in support groups helps caregivers deal better with depression and anxiety, according to a study published by Seattle University College of Nursing.

When you have support, you are no longer carrying everything on your own. You have access to new resources, and you do not have to feel accountable for everything that happens. You can regain some sense of control in your life when you create healthy boundaries around the aspects of caregiving you are responsible for. The support group provides freedom to draw those lines in the midst of these chaotic and sudden changes.

  1. Involvement in support groups delays nursing home placement for senior parents and spouses.“Counseling and support program for caregivers delayed the nursing home placement of patients by an average of one and a half years,”according to The National Institutes of Health.

With that support, choices about your loved one’s health are made more logically and with more education behind them.

If you are in the position of caring for an senior loved one, consider attending a caregiver support group like those offered by the Brooke Grove Retirement Village. The sole purpose of the group is to support you as you ease your way through the many, constant transitions that come while caring for your loved one.

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