Caregiver Support Groups
There are a number of caregiver support groups. Often, they are associated with the fundraising/awareness organizations for a specific disease such as MS, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. They offer caregivers the opportunity to commiserate and share problems, to vent, and to share ideas for improving or making care giving easier for people who suffer from these diseases.
These groups provide information and education about the disease, treatments, prognosis, and research. This information may be of benefit to help educate your siblings and other family members who may have preconceived notions about cures and unrealistic goals for your parents.
There are a number of nonspecific support groups associated with aging in general. These can be associated with AARP, your local senior center, or area agency on aging. Your local hospital may run a support group for caregivers. Hospices offer bereavement and support groups for caregivers and family members involved with patients who have been diagnosed as terminal.
Fraternal organizations such as the Elks, Moose, or Eagles lodges may also have some support groups or offer assistance to longtime members. Sometimes they can help with making phone calls or home visits to shut-in members and provide even a few minutes of respite for the caregiver to take an uninterrupted shower, bubble bath, or just sit outside alone.
The Veteran's Administration can also offer many services including medical care and long-term-care options to those who served in the armed forces. However, your parent has to register with the local VA in order to be eligible to receive these benefits. You will have to locate honorary discharge papers in order to complete this process.
Many support groups also have Internet sites that may include such options as chat rooms, forums, and bulletin-board services for those seeking help to post a message or question. Sometimes it can be helpful just to read through the postings and realize you are not alone, or that there are others who have worse situations than you.
You may also find a collection of helpful suggestions from how to deal with family conflicts to how to make or use an adaptive device so your father can perform some of his own grooming and dressing tasks.
In some instances, venting or sharing your experiences can be cathartic and provide sufficient relief. Other times you may receive responses from others with messages of support or suggestions and ideas to help you deal with a particular issue. You may find you have suggestions to contribute as well, which can bolster your self-esteem and help you find a renewed faith and interest in your efforts.
Make a phone call, send a letter of request for assistance and information, or send an e-mail. Ask for information about support-group meetings, respite services, and how to get involved. Ask for help for yourself, your parents, and for your family members.
Respite services can range from a companion or sitter to stay with your parent for a few hours for a one-time event or periodically, such as weekly or monthly, to temporary placement in a facility. Respite care can include placing your parent in a board-and-care home or nursing home short term. This may be necessary if, for example, you become ill, wish to take a family vacation, or need to travel for work.
Long-term-care policies and hospice programs usually offer respite arrangements. Some of the nonprofit support groups such as those associated with Alzheimer's, MS, Parkinson's, and cancer may offer respite services in your area. Contact local chapters for more information.