Expert Q & A

Benefits of a Caregiver Support Group

Nov 26, 2014 09:53AM
Question: I have recently become a full-time caregiver to my ailing mother. I was told to join a caregiver support group. How would that help?

Caregiving Expert,  Linda Burhans
I have facilitated hundreds of caregiver support groups over the last four years. When a new person shows up I always ask, "Why did you come today?" More often than not, the response is , "I don't know, I just think I need some help."
 To which I say, "Then you're definitely in the right place."

There are days that you're going to be down and there are days that you're going to be up. The encouragement that you can receive from a support group  can boost your emotional and even physical well-being.

1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE: The problems that you go through as a caregiver are being experienced by other caregivers. Knowing that you're not alone can be of great comfort. It can be helpful just getting to talk with other people who are in the same boat. You can gain perspective and caregiver stress management tools that come from hearing others talk about their experiences.

2.  WE LEARN TO: Accept help, ask for help and acknowledge ourselves on our caregiving journey. Caregiving is a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Understanding how to balance responsibilities by taking care of your needs and involving others help manage the natural stress and isolation of being a caregiver.

3. SHARE IN A SAFE, NON-JUDGMENTAL ENVIRONMENT: A caregiver support group gives you the opportunity of sharing common experiences and learning coping strategies. You can also find emotional outlets and receive support from peers in a safe nonjudgmental environment.

4. FIND RESOURCES: People in the support group will also share with you information ranging from research, new medications, doctors, attorneys and different places and people who can provide more help.

5. NEW FRIENDSHIPS: I have watched people in the support groups that I facilitate form new friendships and discover a sense of community. I have seen them delight in helping others while helping themselves.

6. LOCAL vs ONLINE: Because local and virtual support groups each offer unique advantages, many caregivers explore the benefits of both. Face-to-face support groups are great if you can take a break from the caregiving responsibilities for a short time. Many of the adult communities where I facilitate support groups will care for your loved one while you attend the support group. If not, online  support groups can offer help, available at your convenience.

Don't try to do it all by yourself. Caregiver support groups will help you take that deep breath and recharge.

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Caregiver Advocate, Linda Burhans is the author of Good Night and God Bless, that talks about the emotional, rewarding and frustrating journey of her mother, during the final 18 months of her life. Good Night and God Bless offers inspirational messages of unconditional love, loss, joy, sorrow and humor for those caring for aging parents. Linda is sought after for speaking engagements and workshops for family caregivers, senior home health care and assisted living facilities.  For more information, go to
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