Memory care support groups offer an opportunity for caregivers, family, friends or those with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia to provide support to one another in group settings. In meetings held at regular intervals and led either by trained facilitators or a group member, the groups offer people in similar circumstances the chance to share practical advice and coping skills, as well as to discuss feelings, concerns and frustrations.
Some people dealing with the onset of memory loss withdraw from social activities because it can be a painful reminder of their daily challenges. In a memory care support group setting, everyone is aware of the illness, so the participants are not as likely to feel judged or embarrassed.
Here are some of the potential benefits of participating in a memory care support group. For caregivers:
- Interacting with others in your situation imparts insights and practical advice on caring for your loved one.
- It helps you feel less lonely and isolated in your circumstances.
- It also might convey a sense of empowerment and help you feel you have more control over the situation.
- The support group often is a source of information about new treatment or therapeutic options.
- Support groups may help to reduce anxiety and the chances of clinical depression.
For seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia:
- The opportunity to talk with one another provides a sense of shared experience and the feeling that one is not alone.
- There is a comfort in knowing that one can speak freely without fear of judgment or embarrassment.
- Group participants often feel a sense of release and even enjoy moments of humor in relating their particular challenges to one another.
- The group provides a social experience that interrupts the self-preoccupation that sometimes accompanies early-stage dementia.
Most support group meetings are held with informal formats and offer open discussion. Occasionally, there may be guest speakers to provide information about specific aspects of memory care management. Some groups are intended only for caregivers, some are specifically for persons with early onset dementia, while others combine the two categories.
The Alzheimer’s Association says support group members report feeling less alone, more able to confront their day-to-day problems and more hopeful about their future.
There are other ways to help seniors and their caregivers cope with memory impairment. For example, the Our Place Memory Café, sponsored by The Bristal Assisted Living and its peer care partners, provides valuable experiences that supplement the benefits of support groups.
Based on a concept pioneered in the Netherlands in 1997 by clinical psychologist Dr. Bere Miesen, the “memory café” creates a welcoming and relaxed setting in a local restaurant, where those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and their families and friends share their feelings and fears and receive help and support. They participate in fun activities and enjoy entertainment, while an atmosphere of patience, understanding and camaraderie is fostered.
The Our Place Memory Café was designed to allow caregivers to meet others in a relaxed and friendly environment. The sharing of knowledge and experiences helps participants to find mutual support – and often times, new friendships. Caregivers and those with memory loss are encouraged most of all to just be themselves.