Caregivers offering support to an ailing or aging loved one are faced with an ever-changing and often escalating set of challenges. This journey is hard for others in your life to understand - full of questions, fear, struggle, and stress. It’s an undoubtedly difficult journey to navigate and a support group can provide you with a community of understanding, knowledgeable, and caring people by your side.
If you’re currently caring for a loved one, we highly encourage you to join a local Orange County support group. We’ll dive into the benefits of a support group, what to expect when you join one, and where to find one in this article.
What is a support group?
A support group is a group of individuals in your local area with a common interest like a specific disease or condition. They meet regularly (schedules vary from bi-weekly to monthly) and are often run by someone with the disease of interest or by someone who knows how to counsel others on it. They are usually run out of hospitals, community centers, or online.
What are the benefits of a caregiver support group?
A caregiver support group has a lot to offer you along your journey as a caregiver.
Emotional Support. Caregiver support groups can help support you through the day-to-day emotional stresses with a level of empathy only people with first-hand experience can provide.
New Friends and Community. There is also a lot to offer in the way of community support. By surrounding yourself with new people who are in your shoes, you’re likely to find someone who can help when you have questions or listen when you have frustrations. It’s a great way to make friends and avoid isolation in what is often otherwise a lonely experience.
This type of community support is necessary for maintaining your wellbeing. Remember, your health is crucial to the healing and care of your loved one.
Opportunity for Learning. Have you ever had a question, but couldn’t find the right person to ask? A local support group is often the answer. They are an invaluable source of information - full of financial tips, legal references, personal experiences, and disability or disease-specific information (like available treatments).
Opportunity to Help Others. If you’ve been a caregiver for a while, you are a valuable resource for someone who is one or more steps behind you. You can help others in your shoes by sharing your experience.
What should I expect in a support group?
Support group meetings are informal gatherings, so you can wear anything that makes you feel comfortable. The gatherings typically last about an hour, though if it’s longer you will be notified or asked to bring lunch/snacks if applicable. Depending on the facility, there may also be refreshments available.
In the first few minutes of the group, the group leader will allow newcomers to introduce themselves and meet the rest of the group. If that sounds intimidating, you may be relieved to know there is no attendance or speaking requirement.
You are welcome to go just once, sporadically - whenever you feel like you could use community, or to attend every group. There is also no need to share about yourself or your story if you don’t want to - you can wait until you’re ready. Even if that day doesn’t come - you’re always welcome to join and benefit from the community and learn from others.
How can I find a support group in Orange County?
Here are a few places to consider for finding a local support group:
CRC OC. We have General Caregiver Support Groups, as well as Specialized Support Groups that are specific to a need or diagnosis. We also offer support groups in a variety of languages. Click here to learn more.
Your primary care physician (PCP) or the healthcare provider overseeing your loved one’s needs. Your PCP or another healthcare professional familiar with your situation is another strong resource for finding a local support group.
Advocacy organizations. If there’s an organization that is specific to the health condition or disability you’re caring for, they may be another resource to help your quest to find a local support group.
Facebook groups. There is likely already an online community of people in your local area who support each other through Facebook. Search the “Groups” tab within Facebook for keywords like [Your City] and [Health Condition] to find one in your local area.
Closing Thoughts - How We Can Help
Finding a support group may initially sound intimidating, but it can become an invaluable resource in your journey as a caregiver. It is a casual and non-judgmental place to find support, community, comfort, ideas, or just to share your story. Through all of it, it is a great reminder that you are never alone.
As we touched on, CRC OC has General Caregiver Support Groups as well as Specialized Support Groups that are specific to a need or diagnosis. Click here to learn more about our Orange County support group options and meetings.
Otherwise, feel free to give us a call at 800.543.8312 or 714.446.5030 and we will help you find the right support group for you.