Long Distance Caregiver
to Care: Support Groups/Self-care
Locating a Support Group
Questions to ask
- Is this the right group for you? Does it address your concerns?
- Do you need to meet face to face with others?
- Will telephone or online support suffice?
- Are you comfortable sharing your intimate feelings with others?
- Are you willing to listen to other people's difficulties?
- Are you deriving benefit from the group?
- Does the group leader maintain control or do meetings lose focus, leaving you frustrated?
Too many caregivers claim they don't have the time to attend support
groups. Please make the time; it's critical for your survival.
- Determine what you need from a support group.
- Find out if there is an existing group that meets your needs.
- Discover sources of information about support groups
- self-help clearinghouses and resource centres
- social service agencies
- volunteer bureaus
- community agencies
- health, disease and disability associations
- seniors' centres
- churches and other religious institutions
- hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities
- professional therapists
- newspaper listings
- community services directories
- community services listings
- the Internet
- Visit support groups with similar concerns
- Join the group that best meets your needs
- Start your own support group, if necessary.
Support groups are not for everyone. If you prefer not to
participate in a group (please try a few meetings), consider
one-on-one support and counseling. Contact an established
organization in your particular field of interest, or contact
a social worker through your local health department, community
health centre or family service agency.
Starting a Support Group
Questions to Ask
- Is there an existing support group that addresses your concerns?
- Do you have the time and energy to start a support group?
- Do you have the support of family members and friends?
- Can you handle the extra demands of organizing a support group?
- Are there other organizations that the new support group can
- Are there other caregivers willing to share responsibilities?
- Are there professionals you can call on to help with start-up?
- Are there professionals you can call on to provide topical advice
- How will you publicize the formation of the group?
- What community resources are available?
- What are possible sources of financial support?
- Where will the group meet? When? How often?
- How will the group be led by peer leadership, professional
facilitation, shared leadership?
- How will group responsibilities be shared?
- How will the group be structured as a stand-alone group
or as part of a larger organization?
- Will it be an informal group or legally registered?
- Visit support groups with similar concerns
- Talk with experienced group leaders
- Find out what they have found to be most effective
- Obtain how-to packages from established groups
- Contact a self-help clearinghouse for information on how to
start a support group
- Find out about available community resources
- Seek out opportunities to create strategic partnerships
- Find out about potential funding sources
- service clubs
- community and social service agencies
- grant-awarding agencies and foundations
- professional associations
- gifts in kind
- donations from individuals, families, bequests
- Form an organizing committee
- Arrange a planning meeting
- Establish the group's focus
- Define the aims and objectives of the group
- Decide who can join the group
- Define the group's relationship with professionals
- Establish the purpose of the first meeting
- Arrange a meeting to launch the group
- Publicize the launch meeting. Target potential members
- Collect resource information and materials to display or exchange
at the launch
Running a Support Group
Questions to ask
- Is the meeting content relevant to the members' needs?
- Is the meeting location convenient and accessible to the majority of members?
- Is the meeting schedule adequate for members?
- Are members satisfied with the conduct of the group?
- Are members satisfied with their level of participation in the group?
- Have the members' needs changed?
- How will the group publicize its availability to potential new members?
Steps to take
- Select a group leader or rotating schedule of leaders and/or facilitators
- Establish clear ground rules:
- Confidentiality Keep discussions between group members only.
- Respect Let each person speak without interruption.
- Guest speakers Keep introductions short; let guest speakers present their topics.
- Patience Be patient towards group members, especially those in need.
- Constructive discussion Confine group discussions to issues and coping strategies
specific to the group. Deal with external matters privately.
- Group ownership It's your group. Speak out, be respectful, stay on track.
- Finish meetings on time but let attendees arrive as they can.
- Select a meeting place, schedule and meeting format
- Hold regular meetings
- Solicit feedback from members on the effectiveness of the group
- Make group decisions about changes, as necessary.
Sample discussion topics for
caregiver support groups
- responsibilities and rewards of caregiving
- how to handle day-to-day problems
- information on community and support services
- advocating for the care recipient
- effects of change and loss on marital and family relationships
- learning about health boundaries
- warning signs of caregiver stress
- ways to relieve caregiver stress
- taking care of yourself
- what to say and do when you can no longer be a full-time or part-time caregiver
- long distance caregiving
- coping with your feelings
- dealing with grief and moving on
- facing the day when placement in long-term care is a necessity
- Keep support group discussions confidential
- Listen and support group members without criticizing or passing judgment
- Respect each member's personal situation
- Brainstorm solutions to members' dilemmas
- Be realistic about what the group can accomplish
- Rotate tasks and responsibilities among group members
- Develop a network of peers and professionals for support
- Avoid burnout