Whether you’ve been caring for a loved one for an extended period of time, or you recently fell into your new caregiver role, learning how to manage caregiver stress and caregiver burnout can have a great impact on your physical and emotional health. A major culprit for both caregiver stress and caregiver burnout is taking on too much and not knowing when to ask for help.
Help can come in many different forms for caregivers, but joining a caregiver support group can be a great resource and in some cases, a saving grace. Caregiver support groups provide caregivers with a community and a regular reminder that you are not alone in the experience of caring for a loved one. Joining a caregiver support group can also help connect you with lifelong friends, weekly or daily encouragement and a safe space to speak your mind.
Navigating Caregiver Support Groups
Of course, not all caregiver support groups are created equal. In order to find the caregiver support groups that are right for you, here are a few things to take into consideration:
- Check Professional Credentials. Many caregiver support groups are run by licensed professionals, such as social workers, therapists and religious leaders. Check the credentials of the group leader or moderator before attending to make sure that your group will be a professional and productive environment.
- Make Note of An Established Track Record. Typically, caregiver support groups that have been up and running for an extended period of time are well-established and have a strong reputation in the caregiving community. While newer groups can be positive and productive as well, there is sometimes more of a learning curve, making it harder for caregivers to connect to the process.
- Decide If You Want General vs. Specific. There are many different kinds of caregiver support groups available to help you on your caregiving journey. There are general groups that aim to support all caregivers, no matter the reason, and there are specific caregiver support groups that are more targeted for certain diseases and afflictions. For instance, if your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there are specific groups out there that deal with the challenges that come along with caring for them. If it’s important to you to connect with other people who are going through the exact same thing as you, then choosing a specific group would be ideal.
- Know What Is Required. In many cases all you have to do to be a part of a caregiver support group is to show up. But in some cases, the rules of the group may require that you share your own story in addition to listening, or that you don’t miss a certain amount of meetings. If it’s hard for you to commit to stricter rules and guidelines, you can rule out any of the caregiver support groups that have those requirements in place.
Maintain Realistic Expectations
Caregiving is hard; it’s physically, emotionally and mentally draining and can take a large toll on your overall health and wellbeing. While these caregiver support groups exist to help you cope with caregiver stress and avoid caregiver burnout, maintaining realistic goals and expectations is essential to the process.
If you are showing up to your group every week and treating it like a psychotherapy session, then perhaps you need more private support than the group can provide. If a group leader notices that you may need additional support, there is no shame in that. They can probably even provide you with several referrals.
Ideally, a valuable caregiver support group can realistically help you with the following:
- Learn caregiving tips and access additional resources to help you in your role as a caregiver
- Provide you with a safe space to talk about your personal experience, including negative emotions and feelings
- Support you through difficult decisions and help you work through family conflicts that may arise
- Give and receive advice on how to work through challenging behavior from your loved one for whom you are caring
- Access the tools to help you with stress management, how to make more time for yourself and how--and when--to say no
Caring Made Easier
Caregiving is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in the world, but we all do it out of love and obligation. Medical Guardian supports caregivers like you every day and works with you to help make your job of caring for your loved ones easier. If you’ve been putting pressure on yourself to be there for your loved one 24/7, Medical Guardian can help.
All of the medical alert devices in our product suite were designed to help take the burden off the caregiver. With a Medical Guardian medical alert system, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved one will always have access to help if they need it. And you can finally take a night off.