When you run into a difficult situation when caring for your aging loved one, where do you turn? While you might want to seek solace in a family member or good friend, they may be unable to fully empathize with your situation, particularly if they have not experienced caregiving for an aging loved one themselves. Or, just as likely, you’re too tired after a long day to make plans to meet in person, or don’t have time to fit in a lunch date or lengthy phone call. Most people you talk with won’t be able to truly understand the challenges you’re experiencing. Who will? Those who are going through your exact situation—and you can find them online.
Benefits of Support Groups for Caregivers
For caregivers needing some extra emotional encouragement, online support groups can be a much-needed remedy. The benefits from joining a group or forum include reduced isolation, depression, and anxiety, and caregivers usually feel more empowered to handle their situation as they gain a better idea of what they can expect from their ever-changing role. These support groups also offer a non-judgemental space where caregivers can feel free to ask specific questions, share experiences, and exchange tips and tricks for helping aging loved ones. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone in your situation can provide significant emotional relief; being able to talk with peers in similar circumstances might be enough to help you through the most difficult day or situation.
As with everything on the internet, there’s a wide range of types of online support groups: you can be sure that you’ll be able to find one that fits your needs. For instance, caregivers working with an LGBT older adult or an older adult with dementia, can find support groups that cater to each situation and community. Forums like these have respectful privacy policies so caregivers can talk confidentially in a safe space.
Online support groups provide a place for caregivers to connect over their shared experiences. You can find many that offer support for general caregiving, as well as more specific situations. The following list provides a few groups you might find helpful.
- Online Caregiver Support Group
- Daily Strength
- Aging Parents and Elder Care
- LGBT Elderly Caregiver Online Support Group
- FCA Support Groups
- Link2Care for San Francisco Caregivers
If you’ve never joined an online support group before, it might take a bit of time to get used to at first—but patience will pay off. While it may initially seem strange to share personal feelings with a bunch of strangers, you’ll soon find advantages to the type of communication: there are no shared history or trigger points to work around, which leads to less judgement and fear surrounding saying something truthful. For these reasons, many people find they’re able to speak more honestly and candidly with strangers than they can with a family member or close friend. Plus, everyone in the forum shares common ground and is deliberately there to offer and find support.
In-Person Support Groups in the Bay Area
Of course, you might be looking for support groups that provide in-person connection rather than online. Luckily the Bay Area offers a variety of options for caregivers nearby.
- Support Groups at UCSF: The University of California, San Francisco, offers in-person support groups for caregivers of loved ones with memory-related issues such as dementia, early onset Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, and frontotemporal dementia.
- Parkinson’s Disease: Cargiver-Only Support Groups
- East Bay Caregiver Support Group
- ElderCare Alliance: Support groups in Oakland
- Family Education & Resource Center: Support groups throughout Alameda County
It might take a while to find the right group, whether online or in-person, that fits your needs, but the extra encouragement and understanding you receive from them will be worth the effort. Whether you’re struggling with a specific problem or just looking for friendly support, cultivating compassionate connections can only help. Being a caregiver is no easy feat—it’s full of ups and downs that are both emotionally challenging and physically draining. But these efforts are priceless to the aging loved ones you help. As some of the hardest working people in the world, caregivers deserve compassionate support, too.
If you’re seeking additional support related to caregiving, Institute on Aging is here to help. Connect with us today to learn more about our support groups, programs, services, and free online resources.