Q. My parents are elderly and frail and require a lot of help. I'm an “only-child’’ and find caregiving to be an overwhelming experience. I'm in desperate need of a support group.
The few that I've found in my area are focused on a specific disease or cater to older individuals caring for an ailing spouse. I did find one that was neither age nor disease specific, but only a few individuals participated, and without regularity. I have even thought about starting my own group and finding a therapist to facilitate it, but I really don't know how to go about doing this. Do you have any suggestions?
Shelley C., Palm Beach,
A. I receive many requests from caregivers looking for support groups so I am aware of how difficult it is to find one that’s a good fit. It requires a lot research and telephone calls to qualify them. Here are some suggestions:
Among the best comprehensive lists of support groups of all types can be found on Caregiver.com, a company that publishes Caregiver magazine and provides resources for caregivers. They have a directory of support groups that you can search by state and county.
Another option is to join an online support group for caregivers. Caregiving.com offers online support to thousands of caregivers using discussion boards and online interactive chats. I asked its founder, Denise Brown, to explain how it works. Here’s what she had to say:
“The beauty of online support groups is that you don't need to fill up your gas tank to get there, you don't have to organize care so you can go, and you don't have to change out of your pajamas to participate. However you are, wherever you are, you simply join in. You can access the support at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. It’s an easy solution and you’ll feel understood, heard and accepted.’’
Putting together a support group as you suggested is also a possibility. Many therapists who treat geriatric patients will be able to facilitate the group for you. But you will need to make sure that the other, participating caregivers are as committed as you are or you will run into the same problems that you’ve already encountered.
Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of SeniorityMatters.com, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. You can contact her at nancy@ senioritymatters.com.