Support Groups Are Essential to Caregiver Wellbeing
by Rich OBoyle, Publisher
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Sometimes the emotional side of Alzheimers Disease is just as hard to deal with as the physical side. You may have fears and concerns or feel overwhelmed by your situation. Everyone has different ways of dealing with these feelings. Your attitude about your Loved Ones condition, your expectations, and how well you cope with the disease can play a big part in the quality of life for both you and your Loved One.
We tend to rely on formal and informal networks of friends, family and professionals to help us through hard times. In general, having close and supportive ties with friends and family seems to have a positive impact on health. The people youre closest to are the most likely to give you the support you need. Even so, you may have trouble asking for help. If you do have trouble asking for help, think about specific ways in which people can help, and start by asking one person to assist you with the easiest thing on the list. You may be surprised at how glad people are to help.
Sometimes only a professional counselor or other people facing the same disease can relate to the feelings and caregiving challenges that you are facing. A good counselor can help you cope with sadness, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed. If you think counseling might be right for you, ask your doctor or other healthcare provider to recommend someone in your area. With a complex, poorly understood and relatively rare condition like Alzheimers Disease, your peers will have some of the best advice and deepest understanding of what you are going through.
Join a Support Group
Healthcare research has shown that support groups groups of people with the same condition who get together on a regular basis to discuss their illness often help people cope better with their condition. For example, a study looking at women breast cancer survivors revealed that the women who participated in a support group lived longer and had a better quality of life than similar women who did not participate in the group. The women in the support group learned coping skills and they shared their feelings with other women who were in the same situation.
You will need to make time in your schedule to regularly attend a group. It will be one of the most important things you do for yourself. The camaraderie and relief from isolation are essential to maintaining your emotional balance and wellbeing. "Caring for the caregiver" is one of the first and most important lessons that you will learn. Join a group early when the disease is diagnosed in your Loved One.
If you are interested in a support group, ask your doctor or other healthcare provider about available groups for Alzheimers Disease. Ask your local Alzheimers group for a list of local support groups. Churches and synagogues, and other houses of worship, hospitals, home health agencies and senior centers, might also have groups that could offer you the social support you need. The Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116) maintains a directory of support groups and services. Your countys Area Office on Aging or university-based Alzheimers Disease Research Center maintains lists of local resources.
ElderCare Online's Neighborhood Networks contains links to state, county and local resources, including Alzheimer's Disease support groups and Area Agencies on Aging. We have listings for all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
When you consider joining a support group, you should look for one that:
Support groups are also a valid option if you have recently finished school and are wondering “What can I do with a Psychology Certificate?” An Industrial/Organizational Psychology Certificate Program can train individuals on organizational behaviors, legal issues in Healthcare Leadership, and strategic planning in Healthcare Diversity. Using these skills to assist others struggling with behavioral or health issues can make a positive influence. Though anyone is free to join these groups, the knowledge gained through studying psychology online will make you a valuable resource in any support group. Obtaining a psychology certificate has never been easier due to the advancement of online education. Getting a certification in this field can help to open more employment opportunities. It is an excellent opportunity to give back and help others break down barriers and cope with their illness, as the sound advice of a professional is a great asset to anyone currently struggling with health concerns.
Use Online Support Services
Commercial Internet service providers (such as AOL and MSN) offer forums and chat rooms for caregivers to Loved Ones with Alzheimers Disease. There are also a few for people in the early stages of the disease as well. These online self-help communities can help you connect with a network of people whose concerns are similar to yours. Online support services can complement your in-person support group and help you in between meetings.
Online support services come in several forms:
ElderCare Onlines Caregiver Support Network provides links to caregiver Mentors and online support services. Caution: Online support services are generally places where people talk informally. All the treatments or discoveries you hear about may not be scientifically proven to be safe and effective. If you read about something interesting and new, check it out with your doctor or other healthcare provider. The more you know, the better you will be able to cope with your condition on a day-to-day basis.
Online support services can be a lifeline to Alzheimers Disease caregivers. Many dementia caregivers have trouble getting out of the house and finding someone to watch their Loved One. Online support services allow you to stay at home and access other caregivers at any time of the day or night. The best online support services are those that have a host or moderator and welcome you with a minimum of chaos and confusion. The host can weed out potential troublemakers or commercial pitches. Your peers in the group can help answer your questions or give you a sense that you are not alone.
Some popular online support groups for dementia caregivers include:
ElderCare Online's Community Center includes a list of upcoming discussion groups and topics.
- Understanding and
Acknowledging Negative Emotions
- ElderCare Online's Neighborhood Networks include state-by-state links to State, County and local resources; County Area Agencies on Aging; Alzheimer's Association Support Groups; and geriatric care managers. Select your state from our complete listings.
- The Eldercare Locator can be reached at 800-677-1116.
- The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center can
be reached at 800-438-4380.
Available from ElderCare Online www.ec-online.net ©2000 Prism Innovations, Inc.