It’s November and we’re supposed to be celebrating and honoring caregivers. Sometimes that means that caregivers need to celebrate and honor themselves. One way that you caregivers can do that is to find a support group and attend it regularly. It’s one of the ways you can actively take care of yourselves by finding a safe place where you can share your strong feelings. At the same time you have the opportunity to give and receive advice and support from other caregivers.
Patient support groups have been around for more than twenty years because of initial research that purported to show that patient outcomes were more positive among cancer patients who were part of a support group. Those results have been discounted by recent research. However, those newer studies indicate that patients of all types who attend support group experience lower levels of distress. Bottom line: they feel less stressed, and that more relaxed state enables them to simply feel better. Feeling good can also translate into faster recovery from treatment.
So why do caregivers need support groups? To whittle down the research to the most basic, it’s the same as for patients—it’s important for stress reduction. Stress reduction is directly related to caregiver well-being. A high level of well-being enables caregivers to remain strong to care for their loved ones.
However, finding a caregiver support group isn’t always easy. The patient support groups are plentiful. There are support groups for families, which are helpful to caregivers, but which also will include non-caregivers. The focus in these groups tends to be on the patient and how the patients’ response to their illness and treatment affects the family members. Good stuff, for sure, but not necessarily focused on the caregiver.
If you’re in an urban or suburban location, the local hospital or the organization which supports your loved one’s disease (American Heart Association, the Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association, etc.), is a good place to find a support group.
Sometimes, though, there isn’t one that makes sense for you, so you might want to consider starting your own. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. I’ll give you some ideas in the next post (already posted here).