Are you a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness? Do you ever feel alone on your journey? Do you wonder who is there for you?
Caregiving can be a difficult, frustrating, and lonely role to be in. Despite the best intentions of friends and families, reaching out to them for support can sometimes leave you feeling like they just don’t care or understand the difficulties that you face every day.
One solution is to join a caregiver support group. Many people will be quick to say that a support group is not for them. They don’t like talking in a group, they don’t have time to attend, or there is no point in attending because no one can solve their problems for them. Before you make that decision, consider the benefits of joining a support group and what you may gain from it.
Here are 6 reasons to join a caregiver support group:
To meet other caregivers – If you feel like you are all alone in your experience of being a caregiver, attending a support group will quickly dispel that myth. There are many other people going through a similar experience as you but it can be difficult to find them. Isolation among caregivers is common. A support group is a place where you will meet other people in a similar situation who will understand your challenges and frustrations.
To share, vent and compare – Do you think no one really wants to hear you complain? Do you feel like it is selfish to talk about your struggles? Do you feel guilty because you want a break from the person that you care for? With members of a support group, no one expects you to put on a fake smile and pretend as though everything is fine when it is not. You can let down your guard and be honest about your feelings. No one will judge you or think that you are a bad person. They will know the struggles are real and will provide you with the validation that you may need.
To learn from professionals – Many caregiver support groups have regular guest speakers like doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and accountants that share their expertise. You may gain some valuable information that you may otherwise not have access to or would have to pay a fee for.
To pay it forward – Has someone helped you on your caregiving journey by giving you information or advice that made a difference? You can help others by sharing what you have already learned, and save them some time and trouble.
To support a sibling – You may feel like you don’t need a support group but maybe someone else in your family could benefit. Some people will not feel comfortable attending a support group alone. If you notice that your brother or sister is struggling, offering to attend a support group with them may be just what they need. You may also find that being together among other caregivers helps to build your relationship and improve communication with one another.
To make friends – When you walk into a support group, you instantly have something in common with everyone else in the room. A bond can form very quickly as you learn about one another and discover that everyone understands what you’re going through. Some of those bonds may develop into lasting friendships.
As you become absorbed in your daily challenges of caregiving, it is easy to forget that others face a similar struggle and that you are not alone. There is very likely a group of caregivers in your community who get together to support one another, lend a listening ear and offer a hug when needed. They are there for you if you choose to attend.
Do you belong to a caregiver support group? What benefits have you experienced? We would love to hear from you!