First off, a support group is not necessarily for everyone. BUT for most Alzheimer’s family it IS a godsend.
There are many types of groups you can join. You need to find one that makes you feel comfortable. They typically have a special theme or focus, such as for spouses, adult children, caregiving aspects, etc. You should find a group that meets at least twice a month to get the best benefit.
You also might consider a group that generally discusses caregiving issues. Most issues with caregiving are similar, no matter what the disease. Some issues confronted might be frustration, guilt, anger, fatigue, finances, physical challenges such as incontinence and so on.
The goal of a support group is to give you a confidential, secure way of expressing your feelings and concerns. This can lessen pressure or anxieties you might be feeling. The caregiving you’re doing is a difficult job, one that nobody really asks for. You don’t volunteer for it but are volunteered for it, so to speak.
Sharing with others who identify with your situation can be affirming, comforting and validating. You also can talk to the group to find solutions to problems you might be having. Odds are that someone else in the group already has experienced a similar problem and can relate to it, and probably supply a practical solution.
The individual with Alzheimer’s also can benefit from being part of a support group. He or she needs to talk about feelings and experiences with the disease. Joining a support group can help lessen frustration and anger. Members of such groups talk openly about having the disease, what to expect and how to plan for it. Therefore, the participant must first be aware of his or her diagnosis to take part.
Support groups for patients themselves is a fairly new concept so you might not find them as readily available as those for family members. So far they have typically been more common in larger metropolitan areas.
Keep in mind that if you live in an area that does not have a support group, there are groups established online. One example is The Alzheimer List, which is sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Research Center in St. Louis and can be found here.