Whether you are a primary family caregiver or a professional caregiver, taking care of others is a rewarding endeavor. Yet it can also leave you feeling emotionally and physically drained. It is important to find time to nourish yourself and allow other people to encourage and support you in return.

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So where do you start? When it comes to finding a local meet-up or support group with other caregivers, you may want to keep a few of these guiding options in mind so you can continue caring for others to the best of your ability.

Individual Support

If the word "group" makes you feel uneasy, you are not alone. Many caregivers find a group setting uncomfortable. What's more, caregivers may feel burdened even further by all that is shared in a group setting. It isn't harsh not to want to hear of other people's struggles with the failing health of those they tend to. Sometimes you just need to distance yourself from the grave realities of why you are a caregiver in the first place. It can also be difficult to discuss with strangers the deeply personal aspects of life. It can feel as if you are burdening them, since they are already struggling with some of the same issues as you are.

If being part of a caregivers' support group is difficult for you to come to terms with, there are ways to find smaller groups and individual support. Do you know a nurse? What about a social worker who may offer one-on-one support on a consistent basis?You can still find other options for a local meet-up to satisfy your needs.

Yet if the camaraderie of shared experiences is something you feel would meet your needs, a group setting will enrich your life and enable you to offer better care.

Benefits of Group Meet-ups for Caregivers

There are many reasons why caregiver support group meet-ups are worth becoming a part of. Some of the most common advantages include:

  • Finding the humor amidst the tragedy
  • A collective resource for new solutions to common problems
  • Learning new and helpful coping strategies
  • Gained support to feel a communal strength
  • Knowing you are not alone
  • Healthy friendships to nourish you socially, mentally, and emotionally
  • Development of new skills to make your role more functionally practical
  • Platform to give advice and help others while still helping yourself

Starting Your Own Group

If you cannot find one in your area, you can start one on your own. It isn't as difficult as it seems.

Family and professional caregiver meet-ups and support groups can take many different forms. Some are more formal and some are targeted towards caregivers servicing a senior with a specific disease or disability. If you cannot find one in your area, you can start one on your own. It isn't as difficult as it seems. By taking a little responsibility, you may be the one to connect other caregivers in your area who are also searching for a place to feel supported.

Joining an Online Support Group

Over the years, many people and businesses are turning to the Internet forum platform. This has resulted in studies conducted to show their efficacy as a means for caregiver support. According to a study published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, a human bond created via online support groups for caregivers, with group participation, enhanced "active and positive coping responses." Awareness was raised and perception of circumstances was improved. The overall conclusion was that online support groups do provide "beneficial psychological outcomes" to family and professional caregivers.

When you take the time to reconnect with yourself and others, you are protecting yourself from caregiver burnout. Finding a local meet-up is as simple as deciding if you want to join a small group, an online group, or a more personal one as one way to reenergize and develop your personhood. The effect of support groups has a long lasting effect on caregivers, with meaningful relationships being formed.

Caregiving is a unique role full of ups and downs. Support groups offer the acceptance and care you need to remain optimistic and healthy.

Sources

Beerman, Susan (2003) The Positive Impact of Caregiver Support Groups On Adult Children of Aging Parents. Marquette Elder's Advisor, 4(3), Article 5. Available at

http://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1167&context=elders&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dcaregiver%2520support%2520scholarly%2520articles%26qs%3Dn%26form%3DQBRE%26pq%3Dcaregiver%2520support%2520scholarly%2520articles%26sc%3D0-25%26sp%3D-1%26sk%3D%26ghc%3D1%26cvid%3DD16BDDB0FB2A4314A6CD97B45619626D#search=%22caregiver%20support%20scholarly%20articles%22. Retrieved 1/18/2016.

Dwyer, Kristine. Support Group Savvy. Today's Caregiver. Caregiver.com. Available at http://caregiver.com/articles/general/support_group_savvy.htm. Retrieved 1/18/2016.

Namkoong, K., DuBenske, L.L., Shaw, B.R., Gustafson, D.H., Hawkins, R.P., et al. (2012).Creating a Bond between Caregivers Online: Impact on Caregivers' Coping Strategies. Journal of Health Communication, International Perspectives, 17(2): 125-140. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3536448/. Retrieved 1/18/2016.

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