Join a caregiver community
Joining a caregiving community is enormously important for any family caregiver. This article describes the main kinds of caregiver support groups and suggests other communities that caregivers may find useful.
The value of caregiving communities
Joining a caregiving community is very important for any family caregiver. Caregiving communities keep the caregiver from feeling isolated and overwhelmed—two of the main components in caregiver stress syndrome and burnout. Caregiving communities are almost always free of cost; if a group asks for more than a small donation or membership fee, double-check that it is legitimate.
The experienced caregivers and professional group mediators within these communities can offer both sympathy and practical advice. And belonging to a community of people facing similar challenges can help the caregiver experience caregiving as a positive opportunity to grow personally and socially.
Some caregiver support groups are peer-led, meaning that other family caregivers organize them and run the meetings. These groups can have a strong “we’re all in this together” feeling. Others are led by trained facilitators such as social workers or therapists. Because of this hierarchy, meetings may have more of a structured feel.
General caregiver support groups
There are many general in-person and online support groups for caregivers. Support groups can be put together by seniors’ centers, churches, hospitals, organizations, or individual caregivers who take the initiative. Many of these groups will arrange for activity or supervision for the person receiving care during the time of the support-group session, so that the caregivers are free to attend.
Local, in-person groups can be found in various ways. Hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices usually have a handout listing support groups in the area. The local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) will also be able to supply a list of groups. You can find the closest AAA by entering your zip code into the Eldercare Locator.
Online support groups
Online or teleconference support groups and forums are useful for those who live in an area without in-person groups, who prefer to be anonymous, or who have limited time and need to post on forums at irregular intervals. Most of the major online organizations, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance and the Caregiver Action Network, offer free support groups and online forums as one of their services.
Condition-specific support groups
Condition-specific support groups offer the caregiver a sense of community for those looking after someone with a particular illness or condition. These include Alzheimer’s and other dementias (such as the Dementia Caregivers Support group), cancer, mental-health disorders, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease.
For caregivers looking after someone with a less-common, rare, or orphan disease (one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans), the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has an organization-finder that includes support groups, along with information and advice that can help the caregiver feel less alone.
Support groups also exist for caregivers looking after people with specific character traits or life experiences. For example, there are groups for people giving care to members of the military or to people with narcissism or borderline personality disorder (for example, the Caregivers of Narcissistic Family Members Facebook group).
Caregiver-specific support groups
There are a number of support groups that focus on the caregiver’s own identity or life situation, rather than the condition of the person receiving care. Among others, there are groups for:
- Working adult daughter caregivers (Working Daughter)
- Spousal or partner caregivers (WellSpouse)
- LGBTQ+ caregivers (LGBT Community Support)
- Latino caregivers (Por una mejor calidad de vida: Latino Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Alliance)
- Black caregivers (Black Caregivers /Caretakers Support Group Facebook group)
Other useful communities
Some groups that are not specifically for caregivers can offer a valuable sense of community and are worth checking into. For example, since the stress of caregiving leads many caregivers to use more alcohol and drugs,1 recovery and support groups for substance abuse and addictions such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery can provide community and be life-saving. For caregivers experiencing family conflict, groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) can be a cost-free source of community and support.
Caregivers who can’t find a group that works for them may consider creating one themselves. Any 12-step group such as AA or ACA can be started by any person, and some caregivers have created neighborhood “care pods” composed of other caregivers in the area who take turns giving each other respite breaks.2
10 things every caregiver should know
Adult day care
Anticipate and manage impacts on your personal life
Avoid feeling alone, isolated, or incapable
Balance care responsibilities
Caring for a senior with depression
Caring for a senior with kidney disease
Deal with caregiver burnout
Deal with caregiver depression
Find trusted sources of help
Get help and support
Take care of yourself emotionally
Take care of yourself physically
External supporting content