Caregiver burnout is a common problem among those tasked with caring for an aging parent or loved one. In most cases, adult children and caregivers must balance the demands of their own lives, careers, and families against the needs of the person they are caring for, which can ultimately lead to stress, anxiety, depression, physical exhaustion, social isolation, guilt, resentment, and even physical health problems from poor diet, lack of exercise and self-neglect.
Taking time to meet your own needs while caring for a loved one may seem selfish or self-indulgent, but it is necessary for the ongoing health and well-being of everyone involved. Caregiver support groups are a great way to connect and share your experiences with people in similar circumstances.
What a Caregiver Support Group Can Do for You:
Even if you have a large family and strong social network of your own, it can be difficult to share your experiences and gain insight from even the most well-meaning friends and relatives. Joining a support group offers many advantages, from connecting you with a diverse group of people who are in a similar situation, to provide you with the freedom and anonymity necessary to adequately voice your feelings and concerns without fear of judgment.
Here are just a few of the benefits and positive effects of joining a caregiver support group can bring you and your family:
1. A Great Source of Additional Resources and Useful Information
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia, a caregiver support group can be an excellent resource for information on everything from the symptoms and behaviors to look out for, to effective coping strategies and tips for safely caring for your loved one while helping to maintain their dignity.
Maybe you have tips and resources of your own to share, such as recipes or conversation starters that have helped you to communicate better or calm your loved one down when they are filling distressed or agitated, or having trouble remembering specific details or events. An hour with a support group will not only make you feel better, it can also potentially save you countless hours looking for answers and doing research.
2. Emotional Support
Being a caregiver can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be an incredibly overwhelming and stressful experience, especially if there are illnesses or physical and mental limitations involved. Talking your feelings through with peers, or just simply listening to the experiences of people in a similar situation can have a calming and healing effect. It can also be good for your physical health as well. A healthy outlet for your emotions is an important resource that can help you to develop healthy coping skills.
3. Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Social Isolation
Being a caregiver often means having to make sacrifices in order to make time and be available for the other person. Maybe you used to have a standing yoga date with your spouse or co-worker or looked forward to meeting your college friends for Sunday brunch once a month. Although the sacrifices are usually temporary, losing your social connections, which are often the way many people manage anxiety and stress, can lead to depression and even resentment. Connecting with other caregivers can help to fill the void that opens when you feel disconnected from your life and peers before you became a caregiver.
Worrying about your own stress levels and loneliness may not seem like something you can afford to do when you are focused on caring for someone who is dependent on you, but you can only offer what you have to give. A constant state of stress and anxiety will ultimately make it harder for you to offer someone else your support and attention.
4. Help You to Refresh
Depending on your situation and your loved one's needs, sneaking away for a few hours to get a massage or go for a long run may not be practical. But the simple act of getting out of the house to go meet with a support group can help to recharge your batteries and make you feel less guilty about taking time for yourself if you are struggling with that.
5. Improve Your Quality of Life
You've probably heard the phrase "you can't fill from an empty cup." If you are feeling worn out and depleted, it will ultimately affect your ability to take care of someone else. Investing in your own mental and emotional health is an act of love towards yourself and the person you are assisting.
6. Help to Regain a Sense of Control over Your Situation
Dealing with illness and the aging process is usually an unpredictable situation, and the loss of control for both seniors and their caregivers can be difficult to manage. A support group can help you to make sense of and accept your situation without judging or putting too much pressure on yourself and things out of your control.
7. Gain Perspective
Sometimes the simple realization you are not alone can make a huge difference.
In addition to our programs for seniors, SALMON Health and Retirement communities offer support groups and resources for caregivers and family members. To learn more, contact us today by calling 800-446-8060 for more information.