Support from other people is one of the most important and effective tools available to caregivers to mitigate the stresses of caregiving. Support can make the difference between caregiving being a burden which burns you out and creates strained relationships and one that helps it be a rich and rewarding experience. Support can be both practical and emotional. Practical support helps you to problem solve. Emotional support helps to cope with the confusion, guilt, anger, and stress that may be triggered during the caregiving process. There are several options available to caregivers to find the support they need.
Studies have shown that caregivers who have professional and/or peer support are able to delay entrance the to care facilities of their loved one for up to eighteen months. Caregivers with support also had reduced feelings of isolation and depression. In one study, early group support for Caregivers of someone with Alzheimers helped them to develop coping skills and relationships that lasted even after the group ended.
We have had several clients who were Caregivers tell us they did not want to go to a support group because they thought it would be too depressing, or because they did not want to hear other people’s problems. While talking about the emotional issues is an important component of some support groups, they usually also have a variety of activities and structures which provide a wide range of benefits. Often they have speakers with expertise in areas that are important to Caregivers. The benefits of support groups include:
- information on resources
- solutions to practical problems
- friendship and laughter
- the “inside scoop” on accessing and managing in the health care system.
- help with coping with other family members.
If you are uncomfortable speaking in front of other people, there is no requirement that you speak at all, unless and until you are ready to do so.
For many people who go to a support group, there is also the intangible benefit of just being in a room with other people who are going through the same thing as they are–people who understand you because they have been there themselves. This in itself is a powerful and comforting feeling.
Many Caregivers also find that they benefit from supporting others . It can make you feel better to give of what you have learned, show you your strengths, and help you build your confidence. It can give you the feeling of being appreciated that you may not receive from the person you are caring for.
Online forums and chat rooms are another rich source of peer support.(Links below) These often have hundreds of postings and dozens of topics, covering absolutely everything that Caregivers encounter in their journey. As one person said to a newcomer on the Alzheimer’s Society online forum, ” …and most importantly, come here often and share what you are struggling with or what worked well for you . We can all learn from one another….this site is a huge support.”
Individual or family counselling is another avenue of support for Caregivers. Counselling provides a safe and private place to sound out thoughts and options, especially if you are not comfortable or ready to share in a larger forum . Families may benefit from having a “neutral” person to discuss difficulties in a way that will help preserve their relationships with each other. Even if there is no family conflict, a moderator/counsellor experienced in eldercare can help to keep discussion focused and act as a resource.One respondent in a 2008 international study said, “I believe the individual counseling helped me not only cope with my husband’s disease but also helped me maintain some sort of personal equilibrium. The individual counseling was invaluable.” Diamond Geriatrics has Certified Clinical Counsellors, Social Workers, and Mediators with many years of experience who are able to provide counselling. and mediation. In some cases, the fee is covered by Employee Assistance Programmes and Extended Health benefits.
Support groups can be found through your local Health authority as well as organizations dedicated to specific diseases or conditions such as Alzheimer’s Society, Parkinson’s Society , and Arthritis Society.