What are the pros and cons of support groups for caregivers?
Support groups vary from place to place and, if you have the opportunity, it's a good idea to visit more than one group before making a decision about which group is your best fit. These groups can provide support and information to help you find ways to productively move forward. Support groups can help people adjust to and find solutions for the changes they experience after a loved one has had a brain injury. Many groups provide resources and schedule professional guest speakers to educate members on specific topics like respite care, managing your loved one’s behavioral issues, and making sure to take care of yourself.
Most groups focus on sharing experiences and solutions. Caregivers in the early stages of managing the aftermath of brain injury of a loved one can also find comfort and hope in a support group. Some groups provide the social connection you might be missing if you're spending the majority of your time being a caregiver. It may also offer opportunities to problem solve in an empathic group setting.
Support groups are not for everyone. It really depends on the individual and his needs at the time. Some people like the companionship of a group and others prefer to find information by reading or searching the web.
It's important to have a skilled facilitator guide the discussion to be sure everyone has a chance to speak. The leader can also help the group focus on productive solutions and strategies for coping.
Support groups can create a sense of belonging. They can be an opportunity to make social connections, and share ideas, issues, and worries. Doors open in the most surprising places; you never know ... you may make a new life-long friend or find a resource for your loved one that you never knew existed.
Carolyn Rocchio is a nationally recognized advocate, author, and speaker in the field of brain injury. Her expertise in brain injury developed as a result of a 1982 auto crash in which her son sustained a severe traumatic brain injury.