Family caregivers regularly talk about the loneliness and isolation they feel. It’s the nature of the caregiving beast–you may be alone in doing all you do. Even worse, you feel alone in the emotions you feel. You keep your feelings, including your resentful and frustrated and angry, to yourself believing no one else will understand. The loneliness grows.
In last year’s annual family caregiver survey from Caregiving.com, a respondent wrote:
“Don’t try and give care alone. You need others around you.”
Surrounding yourself with other family caregivers may seem like a tall order. And, when you try to find a support group in your community, you may find your search coming up empty.
Why not start your own support group? An investment of few hours every month organizing a group can net you a company of family caregivers who understand.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Set a day and time for your meeting. Choose what works for you; if it’s not a convenient time for you, it won’t work.
2. Contact your local library to find out about using a conference room. Often, the local library will have space you can use free-of-charge. In addition, the library may publicize the group’s meeting on its website and in its newsletter. Library can’t help? Check with social service agencies, including your local Area Agency on Aging, and local churches and synagogues.
3. Set your topic for your first meeting. You may want to start with a rather general topic, such as “Coping with Caregiving Stress.” During the meeting, attendees can share what’s stressful for them and how they manage their stress. The value of your meeting will be in the sharing.
4. Create a flyer which details information about your first meeting. Use a relatable description, such as: “Worrying and caring for a family member with a chronic illness? Join our support group to connect with others in a similar situation.” Avoid using the term “family caregiver” because many don’t call themselves a “family caregiver.”
5. Post the flyer anywhere you can. Family caregivers are everywhere: Your local coffee shops, grocery store, community center, doctors’ offices. Send flyers to home care agencies and social service agencies. Submit your group’s information to the calendars on your local media’s websites. Share about your group on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.
6. Tell family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors about your group. Give them flyers to share with their friends, co-workers and neighbors.
7. Have your first meeting. It’s okay if you have just a few members–that’s the best way to start. Schedule some time during your first meeting to ask members for future topic ideas and speakers.
8. Have fun during your meeting. Caregiving is serious, which means family caregivers are long overdue for a laugh. Share both the sad and the funny.
9. Ask your members to get involved in future meetings. Create a sign-up sheet for refreshments so each member takes a turn. And, if you’d like, you can rotate who leads the group’s discussions.
10. Collect email addresses so you can send reminders before the next meeting. And, send a check-in email to any member who seems to be struggling. You can’t imagine how much that kind of email will mean.
Give your group the time it needs take hold. As your group grows, you’ll find that your loneliness lessens. As it will for the members of your group.
Have you started a support group in your community? Please share your experiences in our comments section, below.
–You’ll find more resources to help you start your group here.
- ARGH!!! to “Family Caregivers Don’t Self-Identify” (caregiving.com)
- Enter Your Art in Our Third Annual Caregiving Art Show (caregiving.com)
- AARP: Workplace Policy Solutions Needed for Working Family Caregivers (caregiving.com)
- Tell Us Your Story (caregiving.com)
- Video Chat: Why Don’t Family Caregivers Like Online Tools? (caregiving.com)