A support group can be a wonderful idea if you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Often times, it helps to know that you aren’t alone in your journey. There are certain things to look for before attending a support group. This list was taken from the Mayo Clinic:
Each type of support group has its own advantages and disadvantages. You may find that you prefer a structured, moderated group. Or you may feel more at ease meeting less formally with a small group of people. Some people may prefer online support groups.
Ask these questions before joining a new support group:
- Is it geared toward a specific condition?
- Is the location convenient for regular attendance?
- What is the meeting schedule?
- Is there a facilitator or moderator?
- Is a mental health expert involved with the group?
- Is it confidential?
- Does it have established ground rules?
- What is a usual meeting like?
- Is it free, and if not what are the fees?
- Does it meet your cultural or ethnic needs?
Plan to attend a few support group meetings to see how you fit in. If the support group makes you uncomfortable or you don’t find it useful, try another one. Remember that even a support group you like can change over time as participants come and go. Periodically evaluate the support group to make sure it continues to meet your needs.
Also be aware that you may be at a different stage of coping or acceptance than are others in the support group. Or they may have a different attitude about their situation. While such a mix can provide rich experiences, it may also be unhelpful or even harmful. For instance, some in the group may be pessimistic about their future, while you’re looking for hope and optimism. Don’t feel obligated to keep attending the group if a conflict or group dynamic is upsetting — find another group or just sit out for a while.
- Promises of a sure cure for your disease or condition
- Meetings that are predominantly gripe sessions
- A group leader or member who urges you to stop medical treatment
- High fees to attend the group
- Pressure to purchase products or services
- Disruptive members
- Judgment of your decisions or actions
Be especially careful when you’re involved in Internet support groups:
- Keep in mind that online support groups are sometimes used to prey on vulnerable people.
- Be aware of the possibility that people may not be who they say they are, or may be trying to market a product or treatment.
- Be careful about revealing personal information, such as your full name, address or phone number.
- Don’t let Internet use lead to isolation from your in-person social network.
But remember that support groups aren’t a substitute for regular medical care. Let your doctor know that you’re participating in a support group. If you don’t think a support group is appropriate for you, but you need help coping with your condition or situation, talk to your doctor about counseling or other types of therapy.