Caregiver stress can take a toll on your health, but fortunately, there are ways to find help using an online caregiving support group.
Learn more about the difference that online caregiving support groups can make on your life and how to find a network of other caregivers that you can turn to for help.
Online caregiving support groups can provide some distinct benefits that make them a great option for people struggling with the unique challenges of caring for a parent or senior loved one:
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Traditional support groups will meet at a consistent time, probably once a week. If you have a crisis the day after a meeting, you’ll be waiting six days before the next time the group comes together (although you may be able to reach out to individuals in the group to help). An online caregiving support group is there throughout the week and you can drop in whenever needed.
Denise Brown of Caregiving.com, which includes an online caregiving community, says, “Our support makes a difference because it’s constant. If you can’t join us today in the chat room, you know we’ll be there tomorrow.”
The comfort of knowing that people you can trust will be around different days of the week and different times of day can make a huge difference in your emotional and mental well-being.
In-person support groups are still worth considering, but for many busy caregivers, they’re hard to make it to. Brown explains, “An online caregiving support group is convenient — you don’t have to find help to watch your loved one while you attend.”
They are also less structured and require less of a time commitment. “When you join an in-person group, you may feel obligated to stay for the entire duration of the meeting,” Brown adds. In contrast, “you can join our chat room during our designated chat times for an hour or for five minutes — it’s totally up to you.”
Even during the busiest of days, you can take a few minutes to connect with other caregivers before rushing off to help your loved one.
The difficulties of caregiving often come with an inconvenient dose of guilt. Getting frustrated with your loved one in moments when you’re exhausted or overwhelmed is only natural, but it leaves caregivers feeling awful.
You need somewhere safe to vent and work through the negative feelings that can sometimes arise.
Online caregiving support groups are a safe space for this because the others in the group understand. Leslie Koc, a retirement coach and spousal caregiver describes her group as, “a place where we can let our hair down when we’re having a sad and exhausting day. There’s no judging, just support because we know what it’s like. We’re in those same shoes.”
Caregivers often have to navigate new territory when taking care of their loved ones. Being able to ask for advice from people that have been there can save you the trouble of having to learn something the hard way.
Koc described a time she and her husband were planning a trip together. “The group gave me invaluable tips on how to manage the challenges, plan for some surprises and set realistic expectations.”
“Without their help, the trip could have been a disappointment and maybe even disastrous for me and my husband,” she adds.
Based on where you live, you may not be able to find a strong caregiver support group in your city, or you may only have a tiny one. Online caregiving support groups aren’t limited by geography. Members can join from anywhere, which provides the potential to find a large number of people you can connect with.
Koc brings up this point: “An online caregiving group is much larger. In my case, the Caring for a Spouse with Dementia group is over 1,300 members.”
With that many people, you can pose a question with the confidence that someone there will have relevant experience and be able to offer help.
Even amongst family caregivers, there are people dealing with distinct problems. Online caregiving support groups give you the chance to find the people dealing with issues closely aligned to your own.
Koc explains, “Caregiving for a spouse is different than caregiving for another family member, friend or neighbor. The person who was once our partner in companionship, decision-making, parenting, etc. is now dependent on us to singly fill those roles.”
In her case, connecting with other spousal caregivers is particularly meaningful. Someone caring for a parent can find other people caring for parents and someone helping a loved one with dementia can find groups devoted to the specific issues of dementia caregiving.
The relationships forged in online communities become strong and meaningful. The people you connect with there can become the ones you most want to talk to when facing the worst moments of your loved one’s illness or, when the time comes, death.
Brown shares a story of one such connection. “Because we can be anywhere our members are, I could chat with one of our members as she sat with her husband while he was dying. We used the chat room to connect over what her day was like, her wishes for her husband’s peace and her feelings of being blessed having cared for her husband for many years.”
She adds, “Even though we weren’t physically together, the chat room created such a sense of closeness for both of us. I truly felt like I was sitting right next to her and she could feel my support through my typed words.”
Connections don’t mean any less because you find each other over the internet rather than in person. Online caregiving support groups prove that you can get some of the emotional support you need most from people on the other side of the world.
If you want to find an online caregiving support group but aren’t sure where to look, here’s a list of some good places to start:
If you don’t see a support group on the list that feels like the right fit for you, search on social media sites like Facebook and on Google to see if you can find one that matches your specific situation.
Finding the right caregiving community is the first step toward becoming part of an online caregiving support group that will help you through the struggles of caregiving, as well as help you provide better care for your parents and senior loved ones.
Are you a part of an online caregiving support group that wasn’t mentioned above? We’d like to hear more about your caregiving experiences and your support group in the comments below.