Adults who participated in caregiving support groups reported feeling less burdened and depressed and had an improved sense of overall well-being, according to a 2011 review published in International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
“Most start out saying, ‘That’s not for me,’ only to later realize it’s exactly what they need,” says Jennifer Merrilees, Ph.D., a clinical nurse specialist at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Chalk it up to the word should. “You might feel you should be able to handle it on your own, when in fact that’s a recipe for isolation and fatigue. Talking to other people in your situation can make you feel less alone and give you practical caregiving ideas, too,” says Steven Huberman, Ph.D., a caregiving researcher and the founding dean of the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, in New York City.
Look for a group that’s run by a clinical social worker, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, advises Randi Kaplan, a licensed social worker and the director of the Caregiver Support Program at Montefiore Health System, in New York City. The more specific the group (“for caregivers of people with cancer”), the more you’re likely to benefit from the experience. Give it a few sessions to see if it’s a good fit. If you don’t feel supported or understood—or simply don’t feel better—after several meetings, switch groups, says Kaplan.
Many community organizations and hospitals offer such groups. You can also contact your local Area Agency on Aging (N4A.org) for a recommendation, or find online groups at caregiver.org. If you really don’t want to join, seek one-on-one help from a social worker or a therapist with caregiving experience, says Kaplan.