What is a Support Group?
Support groups are composed of people who come together on a voluntary basis to discuss a common problem, condition, or life situation, and who believe that by sharing with others like themselves, they can receive help. Many family members of Alzheimer's patients have turned to support groups as an outlet for their frustrations and as a source of information in providing care. Early in the development of the Alzheimer's Association, the organization recognized the importance of support groups for family members and caregivers.
Support groups offer a regular place for family members and friends to meet and share information and provide support to one another. Support group members report many benefits including:
- Obtaining information about the disease and community resources
- Understanding the behavior of the individual with Alzheimer's
- Receiving validation for negative or ambivalent feelings
- Feeling "I'm not alone"
- Receiving emotional support
- Learning specific strategies to handle their relative's behavior
- Receiving encouragement to maintain or regain their personal lives
Participation in a support group may help to normalize the experience of caregiving and decrease feelings of burden, even when the person with Alzheimer's continues to deteriorate and the demands on the caregiver increase. Support groups also aid the family in making the transition to institutional or outside care a more positive experience.
The first time someone attends a support group, the experience can be overwhelming. Individuals facing various aspects and in various stages of the illness discuss issues related to their experiences. When you attend for the first time, know that it can be upsetting. Know that it is important to attend several before one's grief will allow the benefits to be seen.
Over 100 family support groups have been organized in the Heart of America Chapter to provide a suppport group to every person who needs one. Please click here or call the Chapter office at (913) 831-3888 or (800) 272-3900, to find the support group nearest you.