Caregiving for a Spouse: Resources and Online Support Groups
Caring for a spouse with an illness or age-related chronic disease can be very demanding, both physically and psychologically.
According to psychologist and caregiving expert Barry J. Jacobs, social support is essential in such cases. Connecting with caregiver support groups can help you feel less overwhelmed and protect your emotional health. “Caregivers often can’t speak openly with family members about their emotional reactions, and a support group provides a relative degree of anonymity,” Jacobs explains.
As you begin searching for support groups, investigate various types. Some focus on condition-specific support, while others are more general:
- Caregiver education
Caregivers often avoid asking for support because they think others will judge them. If you feel this way, consider group sessions that deal with specific topics. They are typically led by subject experts and conducted in a Q&A format. Common topics include stress management, healthcare questions, and health insurance conditions.
- Condition-specific support
Conditions come in all shapes and sizes. You might be caring for an older spouse with a mental illness, like Alzheimer’s, or recently diagnosed cancer, for example. Whatever the case, unique challenges await, and condition-specific support groups can be instrumental in tackling them.
- Online support
Many caregivers struggle finding the time to attend support groups and end up juggling caregiving, work, and other family obligations. Luckily, online and over-the-phone support groups offer the same level of support while eliminating the need to travel or find someone else to care for your spouse while you’re away.
- Finding the right support group
Support groups aren’t one-size-fits-all, even condition-specific ones or ones that initially seem right for your situation, and finding the right group for you can take time. Here are a few tips to help you along.
- Begin your search online
Finding support groups is easier than ever thanks to technology. If you’re caring for a spouse with a clear diagnosis, start with a condition-specific group. For example, for Alzheimer’s and dementia, support group information is available on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.
If your spouse has a rare disease or a general health concern, ask their physician for support group recommendations or consult your health insurer for resources.
- Consider your comfort zone
Are you more comfortable sitting face to face with others and talking about your feelings? Or do you prefer expressing yourself anonymously? Knowing your communication style and what you’re comfortable doing will set you up for success in your support group.
- Ask about the group’s confidentiality policy
Whether in-person or online, confidentiality is a must. Feeling safe while expressing yourself is crucial to your success in any group, so make sure to ask about their confidentiality policy.
- Reach out to your local senior community
Older adults providing care for their spouses often find support within senior communities. Many offer support groups to their residents’ spouses. Even if you don’t provide full-time care or think you don’t need support, residual feelings may persist and interfere with the time you have with your spouse, so speaking your mind is never a bad idea.
There’s no such thing as the perfect support group; that said, the best support groups offer a safe, welcoming space to share stories, express concerns and speak your mind without judgment.
Knowing you’re not alone and having others validate your feelings can help you feel supported and protect your mental and physical health. After all, how can you care for others if you haven’t cared for yourself first?
The professional care team at The Moorings at Lewes is dedicated to helping residents lead lives of purpose, engage with the here and now, and feel joy no matter where they may be in the aging process. Contact us to find out more about our senior health care services in Lewes, DE.