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DEVELOPING A CAREGIVER SUPPORT GROUPBy Blog Master
Developing a Caregiver support group
In mid-February Village Movement California (VMC) presented the second in a series of workshops focused on caregiving. In the workshop Pasadena Village members Esther Gillies and Monica Hubbard described the development of the Pasadena Village Caregiver Support group. Charlotte Dickson, Executive Director of VMC, welcomed more than 50 participants from across the state to the program and explained that a Caregiver Support Group Toolkit will soon be available on the VMC website. The toolkit will support Village members throughout the state as they discern whether a Caregiver Support group might work in their Village.
Monica described the evolution of the Pasadena Caregiver Support Group, from its first meetings with a facilitator from the USC Family Caregiver Support Center to its current status as a member led support group for Pasadena Village members who are caring for a spouse or partner“24/7”. This group of 6 – 8 people meets twice a month with no outside facilitator. In describing the several phases of the group’s development, Monica emphasized that it is okay to try out and discard ideas until the right balance is found within the group.
Esther Gillies shared some of the common elements that make support for caregivers so important. In most cases by the time people are “of a certain age” they have been in their relationship with their spouse or partner for a long time. They have adopted well established roles – one person fixes the sprinklers, one person pays the bills, one person maintains the calendar. All of these roles are up-ended - sometimes gradually, and sometimes all at once when one person’s needs for care begin increasing. The caregiver begins taking on increasing responsibilities in unfamiliar territory, frequently with a steep learning curve. The caregiver can easily become overwhelmed with all of the demands, resulting in physical and emotional exhaustion.
Caregiver support groups provide a safe, supportive place to give voice to the struggle with the “stay strong” expectations from those who don’t understand what the caregiver is going through. Within the confines of the group the care giving partner can be totally honest and safely vent vulnerability, frustration, disappointment, and sometimes even rage. Esther and Monica both stressed that the road gets harder, and for those who like order it gets really hard because you feel stripped of control. Caregivers have to learn to go with the flow.
A Caregiver Support Group is an option for Villages, although it is still important to be aware of other supportive services in the community and to have a relationship with those organizations. Often there is a commonality in a Village so that members feel empowered to “co-create” their own support group. At Pasadena Village it is clear that providing support to the caregiver helps the Village be more open and welcoming to the care receiver as well.
Monica Hubbard admitted that when she and her husband, Tom, joined the Village 10 years ago “I didn’t really see the need for the Village. Tom and I were both retired but still very active in the community, with a large network of friends. Still, we joined, and we enjoyed the educational and social programs and making deeper connections with other members.” Now she is grateful to have a community where “we are wrapping our arms around each other.”
If you are interested in learning more about Pasadena Village, please check out our website Click here or call the office at 626-765-6037.
To watch the VMC video Click here.