Caregiver Support Groups by Phone
For many caregivers, it is difficult to find an opportunity to talk to other adults and to discuss their feelings and problems. Most caregiver support groups are helpful and attending a meeting in person would be nice. But how does a caregiver find time to go to a meeting and get another caregiver to stay with their loved one while they are away? Caregiver support groups on the phone are a great solution for such situations.
Albany Senior Services of Albany, New York has been providing a telephone support group for caregivers in their county for several years. The telephone support group model was developed from an evidence-based research study of the needs of caregivers and how to best support them in their care of the elderly. I talked with Beth Owens, a licensed social worker at Albany Senior Services, who runs such phone support groups for the agency. She told me that their caregiver support groups meet once a week for twelve weeks. The phone teleconference with the group members lasts for one hour. To be eligible for a support group, one must be a caregiver for a loved one who is 60 years or older.
All that is needed is a telephone. The agency also provides participants a free workbook of discussion topics which can be used as a kind of journal during the sessions. The group discusses various topics that are common to caregiving and caregivers. The social worker guides the group discussion and also asks the group members to share problem-solving ideas or ask for ideas from others. She helps the caregivers learn about coping skills, relaxation exercises, and other aids for stress. Participants can learn about local social services for their needs and the needs of their loved ones.
Ms. Owens shared that most of the caregivers are females, and many are caring for a spouse. Most live locally in Albany County and are involved in daily care, though some live outside the county, and are giving care from a distance. The groups usually consist of five to six caregivers, and some groups are for caregivers who have similar situations, such as caring for an elderly person with dementia.
While participating in a support group over the phone, caregivers experience less isolation while having some anonymity and an opportunity to discuss emotional issues. A phone support group provides an opportunity for caregivers who find the weather, transportation, or finding a caregiver substitute an obstacle to attending a meeting in person, Ms. Owens said.