Why Attend a Caregiver Support Group Meeting?
Connecting with others who care for dementia patients
No one else understands what I am going through.” Caregivers often have this thought. They feel like they are the only ones going through this, and no one understands. We at The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center strive to let caregivers know and understand that they are not alone in this journey.
We are a local non-profit organization located in Shreveport to help families in Northwest Louisiana travel the bumpy road of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We provide resources, education and support services for persons living with dementia, including their caregivers, such as art activities, workshops, memory screenings, educational materials, counseling services and support groups. The best part is these services are free. Several support groups meet once or twice a month at various locations around Shreveport/Bossier.
Caregivers often ask, “Why do I need to go to a support group meeting? Why is it so important?” When you attend a caregiver support group, you will find love and support from complete strangers. You will find that these are “your people,” and they understand you and your situation.
This is where people in similar situations come together to help or be there for one another.
You know that you are in good company when someone speaks about their loved one, and you think, “Yes, been there, done that.” It helps you understand that it’s OK to be angry or upset about something your loved one has done or said or to feel frustrated when asked the same question for the tenth time. You find out that neither of you is perfect; you are doing the best you can at the moment. Remember to give yourself and your loved one a lot of grace.
You learn that laughter is great medicine because a lot of crazy and silly things can happen in one day with a person living with dementia. Sometimes you will find yourself laughing at something that just happened because laughing is the only way to keep you from crying. Laughing and reminiscing are good for everyone involved because you can cherish those moments a little more.
You learn that it is vital to have time for yourself as well. Caregivers can neglect themselves, their daily habits, doctors’ appointments, medications, etc. If you do not take care of yourself, taking care of your loved one may be more challenging. Doing something for yourself should not be considered selfish. You need to be able to separate yourself as a person and as a caregiver.
There are different ways to take care of yourself. It could be as simple as having a cup of coffee on the porch before your caregiving day begins. Try to find a backup caregiver to be with your loved one so you can do something for yourself, such as going out to eat with friends, shopping or just sitting in a quiet space meditating, praying or doing yoga. Having time to reset your batteries can help you be your best caregiver to your loved one.
When you attend a support group, you become a part of a community that leans on one another for advice. You have a social network of people with shared experiences. Unfortunately, our dementia community is growing, but we want you to know that you are not alone in this journey. That is why attending a caregiver support group is vital for you and your loved one.
So how do you find out when and where the support groups are? You can call us at (318) 656-4800, and we can find the one that best fits your location or schedule. Or you can visit our website at www.alzbridge.org for more information on the support groups and other helpful information about the different topics related to dementia.
To summarize, here are the top reasons to join a support group:
1. To be able to say how you feel and have others understand.
2. To be angry and others will not say you should not feel like that.
3. To learn how to handle different behaviors.
4. To learn that you cannot and should not be the only one responsible for caring for a loved one with the disease.
5. To learn where to go for help in caring for a loved one.
6. To realize it is possible to laugh at some of the impossible, crazy things that happen during the day with a person living with dementia.
7. To learn to stop trying to teach or reason with your loved one and instead accept the way they see things that are very real to them.
8. To discover that it is vital to have some time for yourself and not feel guilty about it.
9. To become aware of how much it helps to know you are not making this dementia journey alone.
10. To discover that coping is easier with the support, caring and understanding of others.
Laura Gauthier, licensed professional counselor, is the program director at The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center.