In episode 10 of The Caregiving Soul, Dannelle speaks with Shaikha Alothman about empowering all family caregivers through easy access to resources and expertise in a peer-to-peer fashion.
In this bonus episode, Dannelle discusses the difference it makes to keep company with others in spaces that support caregivers.
Our work as care partners requires learning how to manage intense and ongoing stressors we’re often unfamiliar with.
Working through these challenges can make us feel so isolated from the rest of our world. One of the primary benefits of finding a support community we feel comfortable in is the connection with others who understand and help normalize the complexity of emotions and experiences that are part of our journey. And it’s not just an ambiguous improvement in how we deal with the worries and stress.
According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have shown that programs that support caregivers can improve the quality of life of both the caregiver and the loved one and can delay nursing home placement. In fact, one clinical research study indicated participants who accessed regular supportive group counseling were able to perform caregiving in the home for up to 18 months longer than those in the study group who received no support.
Aside from extending the longevity of providing care, caregiver support groups can also be a source of additional resources, information and strategies that resonate, because they come with shared perspectives.
They can help improve our understanding of our loved one’s condition, how we navigate the healthcare system, and discover new ways to help our care partner better manage difficult symptoms.
As much as we value self-reliance, one of the lessons of caregiving is that we need each other.
The opportunity to create, contribute, and be a part of building community is vital to our wellbeing. And in order to stay strong for others, we need space where we don’t have to be. That’s what a support group can be for us, a place of emotional rest where we are fortified from depletion.
There are a variety of different types of support spaces, including condition-specific groups, groups targeting different caregiver demographics, peer-led support groups, and groups led by a trained facilitator.
There are virtual support groups and digital programs, like Shaikha’s organization Haus of Care, which offers flexible support if attending a group in person feels overwhelming or inaccessible.
Check out the websites of major disease charities and contact their chapters to find groups near you.
You can also seek out referrals from friends, medical staff, and others who may have a connection to support spaces. A resource I recommend is the Caregiving Community Guide, a free digital resource directory for and by family caregivers, linked in our show notes.
Once you find a support community that feels safe and welcoming to you, you can participate in whatever way works for you.
Listening to and receiving insight from other peoples’ stories without engaging may be all we have energy for some days, and that is enough. However much or little you interact, connecting with others who understand and support our experience is essential to reducing burnout, combating stress, and increasing our ability to recognize and respond to meaningful moments in the present with our loved ones.
I hope you found this information valuable to add to your caregiving toolbox.
Shaika is the Co-Founder and CEO of Haus of Care, a company that utilizes the overlooked resource of family caregivers to support other caregivers in a peer-to-peer fashion. The system is a free web and mobile platform that “matches” caregivers and then allows them to communicate with each other to provide non-medical home-care guidance.
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