Resources that go beyond the traditional
No one understands the unique challenges a caregiver faces quite like another caregiver. If you’re feeling like your friends and other family members don’t quite understand what you’re going through, you might need to find a support group of like-minded people facing the same struggles.
Support groups are often organized to cater to caregivers of elderly parents with specific ailments, say, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s. They can be run by professionals like social workers, but sometimes are just as informal as a Meetup group for the sole purpose of being social — not necessarily educational in nature. Regardless, the people you meet can be an excellent resource for information and tactics to help you be the best caregiver you can while maintaining your own health and sanity.
Determine Your Needs
Churches, doctors and local senior centers are a great option for you if you want face-to-face support, but oftentimes you might find yourself too busy to attend meetings. However, thanks to modern technology, there are an abundance of support groups and forums online you can join. Convenient because there aren’t set meeting times, you can access the group as your schedule permits. Online groups can also address different topics, so choose as many groups as you feel fit your specific needs.
The American Medical Association offers a test called the Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire to gauge the stress level you might be experiencing. Finding needed support, whether in person or online, will help. Consider the Family Caregiver Support Program and the Area Agency on Aging (through Eldercare Locator) to help you find appropriate groups if you’re having no luck on your own.
AARP’s website has a number of online forums for caregivers, where you can ask and answer questions, share experiences and learn from and support other caregivers. The site offers online chat groups that draw people in similar situations together. Using the search tool on the top right of AARP’s main page, type in ‘caregiving,’ and the site will take you to a list of resources that range from blog posts to checklists. In their Caregiving Question and Answer Tool, there are drop-down menus with topics like ‘local resources & solutions’ and ‘care at home.’ A click through to the community tab opens online forums where caregivers can share their stories and advice, organized by topic.
Facebook hosts a number of private groups aimed at offering caregiver support. They’re completely free and available around the clock, even on a smartphone. A quick search with terms specific to your needs will bring up the groups, just ask to join and the admin will approve your request. Some groups that may be helpful include Caregivers Connect, Caring For Elderly Parents, The Sandwich Generation and Caregivers Assist Support Group.
Blogs are another great resource. Working Daughter is a great resource for women that even offers caregiver training, plus articles and free downloadable content. eCare Diary, Eldercare ABC and CareGiving.com are also great resources. A quick Google search for ‘caregiver blogs’ will bring up plenty of reading materials, including sites that have community journals, weekly self-care plans, free webinars and daily chats.
If you prefer, podcasts can be a fantastic option for information. Popular podcasts include Caregiver SOS, Life Is a Sacred Journey and Agewyz. Topics can range from finding the right place for your loved one to move when the time comes to dismantling ageism, and some podcasts invite experts in a variety of subjects.
In the 21st century, there’s an abundance of support for caregivers, with as many different options as there are people … it’s only a matter of finding the resource that’s a good fit for you and your needs.