Caregiver’s Corner-Join a Support Group

May 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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I know, you don’t have time to breathe, much less find and join a support group. You are so busy providing care, running errands, taking care of the rest of your family and being an all around Saint to do anything except keep your head barely above water with your current responsibilities as you battle Alzheimer’s disease.

But before you count the idea of joining a support group out completely, consider the following excerpted from AARP’s Caring for the Caregiver (click her for entire article):

“Caregivers stand at particular risk for a host of mental and physical illnesses, many of which have roots in stress, exhaustion, and self-neglect—symptoms some medical professionals have begun calling caregiver syndrome.”

“Caregivers appear more likely than noncaregivers to get infectious diseases, plus they are slower to heal from wounds, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., director of the Division of Health Psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus. Kiecolt-Glaser has conducted several caregiver research studies with her husband, immunologist Ronald Glaser, Ph.D.”

“Caregivers also have greatly elevated blood levels of a chemical that is linked to chronic inflammation. And that puts them at increased risk for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Notably, says Kiecolt-Glaser, those levels are still high three years after caregiving duties end, especially among caregivers over 65. What’s more, the studies found a greatly increased risk for anxiety and depression.”

Exhausted, anxious, and pressed for time, caregivers, she says, “tend to lose their networks and separate from their friends.”

So, you don’t have to take my word for it, Kiecolt-Glaser, is one of many researchers noting that caregivers need support. Not just help with the daily activities of life. Although, that’s a great place to start.

Caregivers need emotional support as well. The good news is that there is help. Here are just a few places you can go for some help.

The Alzheimer’s Association. I can’t say enough good things about this organization. Yes, it’s huge, but its also very personal. They have a 27/7 helpline. They can help with everything from housing options to what to do about wandering. Here’s the number, I encourage you to use it and get connected with a local chapter. 1-800-272-3900. You can also find the Alzheimer’s Association at

I promise you, the support group won’t be comprised of a bunch of people sitting around complaining. Rather, you will find that they are much like you. Tired, struggling and trying to provide the best care possible for their loved ones. You’ll realize that you are not alone and that there are people who understand and can relate to your situation.

Another option is getting on-line support. Blogs like this one are great places to get information, vent and be part of a community. Here are a few other online resources.

WebMD Alzheimer’s support group has a forum/support network for Alzheimer’s disease

So, friend, I encourage you. Get some support as you do this difficult, but important work.

So, what do YOU think? Are you a part of a formal or informal support network?

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2 Responses to “Caregiver’s Corner-Join a Support Group”
  1. Loretta Spivey says:

    Ed, appreciate your comments! I am planning to do a series on the dynamics of caring for a spouse versus parents/grandparents, etc. Thanks for the heads up about -lps

  2. Ed Madara says:

    If your spouse has Alzheimer’s, there’s also the “Well Spouse Association,” which its website support and has some local community self-help support groups for those caring for a spouse with any chronic illness:

    For free help in finding any local independent Alzhimer’s support group (not affilated with a national organization), or for free help in starting any type of self-help support group, there are a few local self-help group clearinghouses across the world:

    “My years as a medical practitioner, as well as my own first-hand experience, have taught me how important self-help groups are in assisting their members in dealing with problems, stress, hardship and pain… the benefits of mutual aid are experienced by millions of people who turn to others with a similar problem to attempt to deal with their isolation, powerlessness, alienation, and the awful feeling that nobody understands… Health and human service providers are learning that they can indeed provide a superior service when they help their patients and clients find appropriate peer support.”
    – former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD

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