Building a strong support network is one of the most important steps caregivers and individuals living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can take following a diagnosis. Support groups—whether in person, online or over the phone—can provide education, emotional support and valuable connections to others who are facing similar experiences and challenges.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers nearly 2,500 support group meetings nationwide each month to help individuals and family caregivers affected by the disease. Groups are facilitated by individuals who have received training from the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Connecting with other caregivers can help you find the information, resources and emotional support needed to help stay physically and emotionally strong, so you can take care of yourself while you provide care to others,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s important that caregivers not isolate themselves. No one should go through this difficult journey alone.”
Individuals in the early stage of the disease can also benefit. Dave Gonlag, 60, a former corporate accountant from Kenmore, New York, who has mild cognitive impairment (a common precursor to Alzheimer’s), says attending his local Alzheimer’s Association support group with others who are living with early-stage dementia has been educational and therapeutic.
“It really helps to know that you are not alone,” Gonlag says. “Support groups provide an opportunity to share your experience with others, because they face many of the same concerns and challenges. The group’s discussion often gives me new perspective and new ways of coping with the disease that I may not have considered on my own.”
Most Alzheimer’s Association support groups meet in person, but virtual support groups meet via teleconference and even Google Hangouts. The Alzheimer’s Association also offers alzconnected.org—a free online forum where people with Alzheimer’s, their caregivers and others affected by the disease can ask questions, get advice and find support.
To find an Alzheimer’s Association support group near you, go to communityresourcefinder.org and enter your zip code.