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Steps On Starting Your Own Caregiving Support Group

How Do I Start A Support Group?

Many caregivers write in and phone asking how to start a local support group.

Whether it is online, in your community or in an apartment building, facility, or workplace. The first step is to write down what you would like to receive from the group you are starting as well as what you would like to bring to it.

Gather information about other support groups; attend a meeting if possible to watch, ask questions, and borrow ideas.

Determine the best time of day to hold your first meeting; evening may be better if caregivers are working during the day. Caregivers may need to find someone to care for their loved one when there is a group. You can also ask someone to volunteer to watch loved ones in a group setting while the group is going on.

Find a convenient and safe meeting place for a one to two hour meeting, such as someone´s home, a church or synagogue, library, community center, hospital, social service agency, community roomYMCA/YWCA, bank, or fraternal organization.

Find other caregivers by checking with organizations, schools, churches, ask school officials or agencies working with older adults, families or children to refer other caregivers in similar situations to you.

Promote the meeting through posters, flyers, press releases, ads, announcements or letters-to-the-editor in newspapers, church and synagogue bulletins, local TV, and radio. You can also register them at web sites online.

Consider finding volunteers to care for your loved ones, coordinate activities for those capanble of participating, or have a support group for them during your meeting.

What To Do At Our First Meeting?

Keep the first meeting simple and start small; two or three people in the beginning is fine.

Allow one to two hours for your first meeting, then let the group decide the time, length and place of future meetings.

Introduce yourself and share your story; invite others to share their stories, but do not force anyone to talk before they feel comfortable. All information discussed should be kept confidential within the group.

Collect contact information from all who attend.

Ask for volunteers to help plan and run future meetings. Assign specific roles.

Provide refreshments and continue to provide them if the group agress on this.

What Else Should Be Discussed?

Support groups need to consider these issues:

Choose a name and decide the purpose of your support group.

Decide what kinds of activities and speakers you would like to have. Topics could include legal, financial, health, insurance, school, childcare, emotional, substance abuse, stress, behavioral issues, how to find resources, etc.

Find articles and information that would be of value to the group from offline sources as well as online resources. Ask for permission to reprint articles and information from the source you have found them through.

Determine who is eligible to attend and whether transportation assistance is needed.

Plan your meeting schedule -- at least every other week is recommended.

Decide how you´ll handle any group expenses. How will refreshments be provided? Will dues be necessary?

Create a plan for care and activities if the members will be bringing those they care for.

Plan for a phone network. Exchanging phone numbers or setting up a phone tree for emergencies or for personal support can be very helpful. Exchange emails as well.

Set Guidelines For Your Group:

Feel safe to speak your mind freely, to reach out for support and to share from your own experiences.

Caregivers can be very much in need of having questions and answers responded to, especially when an emergency or possible burnout is at hand. We hope that you will not interupt while someone is speaking about something important to them.

Please be sensitive to the feelings and the opinions of others.

Listening, compassion and empathy are important characteristics of all caregivers.

Support groups are no place for judgments nor holding grudges against one another. If a problem arises, support one another to move through it quickly for the highest good of all those present. Do not encourage aggressive, confrontational, insulting or harassing behavior

Remember to celebrate your healing, your accomplishments, your growth, your moving into love; all the wonderful transformational experiences that caregiving brings to you in your roles..

Take great pride in creating a safe and nurturing environment

Gail Mitchell
Empowering Caregivers

Ms. Mitchell is the President and Founder of NOFEC. Her full-time caregiving experience began in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dad’s passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: www.care-givers.com in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

She presents at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

For a list of client and or her resume, please contact info@nofec.org

Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada.Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

E-mail: info@care-givers.com
Web Site: http://www.care-givers.com

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