A caregiver support group is any group designed to work with people who act as primary caregivers to others with chronic illness. Some groups are designed for people who work professionally with the chronically ill. Many are also available for those people who are family members and who have taken on the care of someone to whom they are directly related.
There are many different ways in which a caregiver support group can be configured. Typically, separation between professional and family caregivers is observed. This way participants in each type of group have access to talking with peers about their experiences, and quite obviously experiences and emotional content differs if a person is a professional or is taking care of a family member.
Many of these groups are also specific as to caring for people with certain types of diseases, and a wide number of them are offered through supportive organizations that make those illnesses their focus. This specificity can prove very helpful. It is inarguably different to care for someone with Alzheimer’s than it is to care for someone with lung cancer. Though some issues are the same, issues specific to the advance of certain diseases may lead to better peer understanding.
Another thing that can be variable in a caregiver support group is how it is conducted. A counselor, social worker, or others skilled in caregiver responsibilities oversee some groups. Others are fully peer led, which means less control over the group, though there may be a few senior members there to help facilitate things. Since many family caregivers often look for someone with expertise, the counselor or other medical led group may be of more use, though interaction with peers is vital, too, as it can make people feel much less alone.
Most people are interested in finding out where to find a local caregiver support group they can access. Professionals may have ones available at local hospitals, convalescent care or through any agencies that employ them. Families may also gain valuable information about caregiver support groups in their area through the medical community. Contacting local agencies specific to the disease of their loved ones is also a good place to search, and Internet searches may also be useful.
Especially for family caregivers, one of the difficulties can be arranging time to attend a caregiver support group. When one is found, people can see if they have a way to help arrange respite care for the family member. Some people feel guilty taking time away, but much literature on this subject suggests that support to the caregiver can be vital. So many people end up suffering depression, enduring caregiver strain, neglecting their own health or becoming deeply angry toward loved ones because life has become so difficult and stressful. Peer support is an opportunity to vent stress and renew the self so that quality of care provided to the loved one is the best it can be.