Caregiver Café group, Maryville, Tennessee
When caring for an elderly family member with dementia you are often left feeling exhausted at the end of the day and at the end of your rope. You are just an ordinary person trying to do extraordinary things. Why do you feel you are supposed to be super human? Because there is much to do and not enough time to do it all. You have your elderly parent to care for, a 24/7 job. That job is in addition to a job outside the home. And finally, your family, another 24/7 commitment. How can a caregiver survive the stress? By attending and learning from a caregiver support group.
A support group is where you can talk about your problems and relieve some stress with others who share similar problems. The beauty of a support group is exactly that: support. It is a way to connect with others facing the same issues with caregiving as you do. You don’t feel alone in your struggles even if being in the group doesn’t take the struggles away. It may relieve some of your stress. There is something about being a part of a group that creates a lasting bond. Friendships are made. Help is just a phone call away.
You find that what you are thinking and feeling is what others are thinking and feeling. Remember a particularly stressful day when you had negative thoughts? The thoughts you have when you are so tired you don’t think you can go on. You wish there was a better way. Maybe you felt like running away. Let’s face it. You have days when you wish you lived someone else’s life. The support group makes you realize that negative thoughts are common under the circumstances.
You learn that each caregiver shares the same experiences. It is reassuring to hear others say “Oh yeah, my mother does that too,” when talking about the elderly’s behaviors. Or how the parent will say the same statement over and over and over (and how correcting them does not work). The doctor’s visits, the problems with not eating, not making it to the bathroom in time, the list goes on and on. It is somewhat of a relief to know that most caregivers go through the same struggles. There are times you feel overwhelmed but you will get through it.
As a group, you can share ideas on how to manage the load. The more experienced caregivers can give plenty of tips to the lesser experienced ones on how to deal with the problems. You start to realize that it is ok to stop thinking you have to be super human (especially since you are not). It is ok to take one day at a time.
Finally, going to a caregiver support group is something you do for you. It is your way to vent and take a break from the routine. It may not be easy to break away but give yourself permission to do so, even if only for 1-2 hours a month. More is better, if you can swing it. Not only will you benefit from the support, your family will benefit from a happier you.