AM I READY FOR THIS? FIRST TIME AT A CAREGIVER SUPPORT GROUP
After spending much of our lives raising families, chasing rainbows for monetary and personal gain, many of us come to the realization that brakes must be applied in order to assist aging loved ones.
The anxieties adult caregivers face are overwhelming as they connect with elders who experience (dementia), fall issues, hospitalization, long term care and perhaps ultimately, hospice. Their empathetic diligence creates tremendous stress upon themselves in their interface with a parent or loved one. The caregiver may also be sandwiched between cares for their children. With the amalgamation of selfless fatigue, nervousness, agitation, sadness and the world coming down on your shoulders, it is time for relief?
Is this for me?
When we think of support groups, usually the addiction groups come to mind. Like any first time approach to a new endeavor there is certain trepidation to attendance, seeing strangers and wondering if you did the right thing coming to this meeting.
Going beyond talking with a friend or loved one can help us find solutions that we wouldn’t have come to otherwise. When those in similar life-altering situations begin to share their challenges and weaknesses, the end result is usually empowerment and strength to carry on.
The search for an area meeting can be accomplished by contacting local hospitals, senior centers or county human services agencies. Once a place, day, and time is decided upon, go for it!
The first step is walking through the door which in itself is nerve-racking. Upon entry eyes may be upon you but there will also be smiles. Words of encouragement such as “welcome” or “you’ve come to the right place” can instill personal confidence.
What to Expect During the Meeting:
The gathering will be called to order with ground rules mentioned such as:
- Allowing members to speak uninterrupted;
- Allowance of time one speaks for comments,
- Discussion of formal supports such as behavioral therapy, respite care, physicians, and Gerontology care manager,
- Discussion of informal supports such as social media, faith organizations, and friends,
- Possibly the placement of a time restriction on a personal share.
The meeting will begin with issuing name tags and filling out a telephone contact list with other group members' information and additional caregiver resources.
It may be announced that no one should state in a comment that this is the definitive right way or wrong way to handle situations but suggestions may be made as to what approach to circumstances may work or may not work.
After the format is mentioned and the meeting called to order, the leader may read a daily reflection followed by each member introducing themselves. A topic like anger, frustration, respite, communication with Alzheimer’s or dementia victims who for example wander or are defiant are likely subjects to be discussed.
Listen and accept the frustration, anxious feelings, and emotions of all who share. Chances are that regularly attending group members have heard or experienced the same situations in their lives as conveyed by a newbie. Members pick up on certain words or terms that are identified and their feedback will be educational and assuring. Predicted on your first time-sharing, a flow of emotions especially crying may occur and liberate. It’s all good.
What is the Result?
A key takeaway can be to understand the importance of personal respite. This action will occur when a substitute such as a personal home health aid or other temporary caregiver fills your shoes in order for a rest and recharge.
Almost always the outcome from witness and participation at caregiver support groups brings about understanding, relation, thanksgiving, RELIEF, and a created desire to return.
Use the support group as an opportunity to recharge, expel emotions, and experience mutual vulnerabilities in the realization that you are not alone even if you merely listen to others and do not speak. There is no requirement to talk but when a comfort level is soon reached, you will.
Caregiver Support Groups in a way emulate something that Mohammed Gandhi once stated, “If we want to find ourselves, start by getting lost in service to others.”