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Why Support Groups Are Essential For Caregivers

Many people are born with an innate sense of selflessness; one that motivates people to go out of their way to help others before they help themselves. We all know someone like this; maybe it’s the neighbor who always shovels a pathway through the snow on your driveway the morning after a storm, that one friend that is really good at checking in and offering their time when you need it,

or even the cashier at the grocery store that will help you carry your groceries to your car, which isn’t in their job description. It seems that people who are helpers and always giving often neglect time for themselves, an integral part of reducing burnout and increasing quality of life.

The same holds true for the unsung heroes in every community in the world: caregivers. Most caregivers in the United States work either full or part time in addition to serving as a care partner for family or friends. Usually caught between multiple professional and personal obligations, caregivers are the perfect example of a population that regularly fail to take care of themselves.

Though there are many small changes a person can make to care for themselves while caregiving, seeking out support can be a small commitment that makes a large impact. Studies have shown that support groups for caregivers not only have a positive impact on their feelings towards being a caregiver, but also for the person they are caring for.

Support groups are not always facilitated in a circular-everyone-is-forced-to-talk structure. Many times, a support group can be meeting for coffee or attending presentations all while talking about the successes and challenges each caregiver has faced. It is merely a place where you are able to openly share your story and feelings with others who may be going through the exact same thing; a place for you to be heard. Anecdotally, there are many people who find joy in attending support groups, but there are also proven benefits to seeking support.

The Mayo Clinic says that support groups can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, reduce stress, fatigue and anxiety, and allow members to gain hope and feelings of empowerment. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health share that support groups for caregivers can actually delay nursing home placement—a win-win situation for care partners!

In Washoe County, it is easy to find a support group for your current caregiving situation. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, various cancers, and grievance support groups are available to the community. Check out the list on Washoe Caregivers website to find the best group that works for you. For rural caregivers, there are still options to get connected through the resources in Washoe County, but online support groups are also available, offering flexible help when you need it most.  

Jumping into a new atmosphere is hard when someone is already feeling tired and isolated, especially if that has not been the norm for a long time. Taking time for one’s self is not selfish—it’s necessary! Consider checking out a support group and taking a fellow caregiver as a personal challenge for 2019, something that will surely help you to be the best version of yourself in the long run.

“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.”
– L.R. Knost


Kelli Hirt