By Jackie Pope-Ganser, CADDCT, CDP, CDCS, Executive Director, Carriage Crossing at Bloomington
In a society where more and more people are becoming informal caregivers for their aging parents and loved ones, the need for support on personal, social, and professional levels is constantly growing. Being a caregiver can often feel like an isolating experience, especially if friends or non-caregiving family members do not understand what you are going through. In those moments when you may be feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it’s important to know that you are not alone.
One of the greatest assets to a person’s self-help and self-healing is a caregiver support group. Through this forum, caregivers have an opportunity to connect with others and find comfort and support as they share their caregiving experiences. Regardless of whether the loved one you are caring for has a debilitating diagnosis or is simply going through the normal aging process, finding balance and recognizing that others share similar struggles can help validate feelings and get someone through this difficult time.
Often, those in a caregiving position are absorbing this role into their regular lives of raising children, managing a career, running a household, and occasionally finding time to take care of themselves. One of the main benefits of a caregiver support group is to have that very necessary social support. It is important to have a safe space where you can share experiences, not be judged and feel “normal”—knowing that you are not the only one who has feelings of exhaustion and despair. Also, fellow support group members can be an invaluable source of advice when one may not know where to turn for answers as others may have already traveled territory that is unknown to you.
In addition to the much needed social support, listed below are additional benefits to being part of a caregiver support group:
- Reduces feelings of isolation and judgement
- Helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression
- Sharing of advice over difficult situations like financial, medical, or legal
- Learn coping mechanisms from others in the group
- Get a clearer picture of what may be expected in the future
- Learn ways to improve your own caregiving skills
- Gain information and insight from professionals that may attend a meeting
- Learning about senior living communities or adult day centers that could help alleviate caregiver stress
- Increase emotional well-being by sharing successes with others and laughing together with people in similar situations.
Statistics in caregiver support non-profit organizations indicate there are over 34 million Americans providing unpaid care for adults over the age of 50. That staggering number is proof that the adult caregiver is definitely not alone. Throughout communities across the country there are caregiver support groups for those dealing with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, special needs, grief support, and so much more.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver in need of additional support, there are many resources to finding a group that may be right for you. Reach out to a senior living community, a local hospital, a social services organization, or a senior center in your area. Those that facilitate caregiver support groups recognize that in order to best care for someone else is to first take care of yourself. Committing to spending time on a regular basis with those sharing similar struggles can help one de-stress and alleviate feelings of guilt that are common to caregivers. Regardless of the situation, peer support is a vital way to help one feel stronger and recognize that every step of the journey a caregiver takes is important, whether big or small.
Carriage Crossing Senior Living at Bloomington proudly offers exceptional care in Assisted Living and Memory Care to older adults in their welcoming community at 1402 Leslie Drive in Bloomington. “Live the Life You Love” while having enrichment opportunities, supportive services, and the security you need to feel confident in your new home. For information or to schedule a tour, please call Amy Agee, Community Relations Director, at 309-603-2500 or visit carriagecrossingsl.com to learn more about our communities across central Illinois in Bloomington, Champaign, Arcola, Rochester, Decatur, Taylorville, and Paris.