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Three Tips on Selecting a Dementia Support Group

Part 2 of a series written by Linda Abbit, Community Outreach Manager, Alzheimer’s Family Center. Click here for Part 1, Six Reasons to Join a Support Group.

While I was a family caregiver for my mom who had Alzheimer’s disease, one of the best steps I took was to become a regular member of a caregiver support group. Here are three tips I learned about how to find and select a support group:

It’s wise to “shop” for a support group you’ll feel comfortable in. Asking your primary care physician, clergy and/or looking online are some of the best ways to gather a list of possible support groups to try. (Google “Alzheimer’s support group near me” or “dementia support group near me” to find local meetings.) When you attend a meeting, consider these factors — the physical setting, group demographics, leader’s style and the meeting format. I’ve been in rooms that felt cold and institutional rather than warm and inviting. I’ve also been to groups that were geared more for spouses than for adult children of dementia patients. There is a support group that is the right fit for you, so try different ones until you find it.

Give a support group meeting more than one chance. I would attend at least two meetings before I crossed a potential group off my list. You want to be sure your first impression was valid, even if it wasn’t necessarily a positive one. What’s an extra hour of your life when it could lead to a positive, long-term experience if given another chance? Some people find they enjoy going to multiple support groups regularly because each one offers something different than another — which is also a wise strategy.

Don’t feel you have to go to every meeting to benefit from the group. My attendance at the adult children of Alzheimer’s patients support group went in waves. There were months I couldn’t wait to get there with my myriad of questions in hand. But, when my mom’s cognitive decline would reach a plateau and things were on an even keel, I wouldn’t attend because I didn’t feel I had any pressing questions or concerns. I returned whenever the need arose. Sporadic attendance is okay.

Support Groups — Online or In Real Life?

You can easily find an online support group, but there is something about face-to-face communication that beats online interactions by a mile! This goes for support groups, too. I participate in social media and have gotten to “know” people from all over the world this way, but the best part of online connections is when you get the opportunity to meet people you’ve been interacting with in real life.

Plus, you can’t hug someone online, and hugs are an important part of many support groups. Caregivers can always use more hugs — and pats on the back, too.

I hope you’ll attend a support group meeting for caregivers soon.

Alzheimer’s Family Center holds dementia caregiver support groups on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. No RSVP required. Please call 714-593-9630 for more information.

Photo credit: Salus Homecare

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