Virtual Caregiver Support Groups

Not everyone who cares for a family member or friend with dementia or a chronic medical condition joins a support group. In fact, most don’t. But people who do, often have made deep connections with those with whom they’ve shared the confusion, frustration and even the anger they have felt with the people they are caring for. Some continued to meet with a group after their loved one has died.

Then came COVID-19, with its resulting bans on group gatherings and directives about social distancing. This ended in-person sessions, and with them the hugs and other gestures of compassion and understanding that could make the support group sessions so heartening. It also took away one of the few opportunities many caregivers have simply to interact with other people.

So, support group leaders have had to shift to virtual get-togethers on Zoom, or conference calls on platforms like Google Meet. It hasn’t always been an easy adjustment.

“Some folks were open to using platforms like Zoom,” said Ana Nelson, vice president of programs and services for the National Capital Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in McLean, Va. “Others said they didn’t think they could because they were so stressed by the impact of the pandemic on their families. They might now be working from home while taking care of a loved one. Or maybe new family members have moved in with them because they lost their jobs. Or they had to try to teach their kids at home while providing care for someone.”

Another challenge for some caregivers has been being able to engage in candid online conversations while at home with the person they’re talking about. Bobbie Carducci, a support group leader in Virginia, said she recently heard from someone who was concerned that she didn’t have enough privacy in her house to join virtual meetings.

“But she did come on to a Zoom meeting and listened for a bit. Then she sent in a question through chat,” Carducci recalled. “When her daughter told her that you can do a Zoom meeting on your phone, she went out and sat in her car and called in.”

Looking Forward to Zoom Calls

Others have embraced the virtual sessions, even if they’ve struggled a bit with the technology and the initial awkwardness of online conversations.

“I wasn’t sure how going to a virtual platform would work, but our participation has actually increased.”

“People were feeling even more isolated at home,” said Vikki Kalitsi, a support group facilitator in Maryland. “They really needed the outside-the-home support. They do miss seeing each other in person, but now they tell me they look forward to the Zoom calls.”

“I wasn’t sure how going to a virtual platform would work, but our participation has actually increased,” she added. “And now we’re even getting people from…

This article was sourced from Next Avenue.Org

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