Caregivers face many challengers, including the tendency to neglect of their own physical and emotional health in order to help others. Support groups are one way in which caregivers can decrease their stress. These groups focus on topics that can help them share their experiences, offering comfort and understanding and teaching important coping skills.
Self-care is incredibly important for caregivers and is usually the first thing that overwhelmed caregivers neglect. Neglecting self-care can lead to burn-out. Self-care encompasses many subtopics that may be discussed at separate meetings. For instance, participants may share diet and exercise tips, productive ways to cope with feelings, strategies that have or have not helped, methods of combating depression and relaxation and other stress-reduction techniques. The group can also bring in an expert, such as a therapist, counselor or meditation instructor.
Caregivers have many changing needs, especially when caring for a loved one. Topics that deal with changing family relationships can be important discussion topics for relaying information and normalizing the experiences of group members. The group discussion can also be organized around personal experiences of marital and family change and loss if the person being cared for is a spouse or family member. The group may also brainstorm about how to have healthy boundaries and ways to take care of a loved one when living at a distance. Group participants can also discuss topics that have to do with the daily challenges of caregiving, such as finding respite care and support.
Caregivers may also take on the responsibility of negotiating the healthcare system on behalf of the person for whom they are caring. Participants may set aside a meeting to share specific information about local healthcare resources, such as nursing, social work and other social service resources. They may also invite a local social service organization to help the group connect to services and educate them on issues such as help paying for medical services, healthcare providers such as local clinics and home care services.