Caregivers give support to their loved ones every day, often forgetting that they need support for themselves to stay healthy and happy. Connecting with other people who are, or were, caregivers can be a helpful means of support. These connections can happen in various forms such as support groups, peer mentoring, coffee clubs, caregiver cafés, and even book clubs. In all instances, the opportunity to discuss your situation with other people who have a similar experience is a wonderful way to find help and support.
A caregiver support group is a regular gathering of people who are in a similar situation who meet to give and receive help, advice, friendship, and emotional support. Participants also gain knowledge on local resources and other issues related to their situation as the group is generally facilitated by a trained leader.
Some support groups have informational speakers for some or all their meetings, while others just talk amongst themselves. Some meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and most have facilitators who moderate for time or topic discussion, although some are unstructured. Many groups focus on illness-specific issues, involving both caregivers and the people who have the illness. A few groups are only men or only women. There are also a growing number of virtual and telephone support groups available for those who can't or prefer not to meet in person.
There are other ways for caregivers to connect with each other that are not specifically a support group but can offer similar types of help for caregivers. These less-structured, caregiver-focused connections are when two or more caregivers meet, either in-person, by phone, or online to talk about caregiving or life in general. These connections can provide a comfortable way to socialize, learn, share thoughts and ideas, find a sense of belonging, and get a break from caregiving. Coffee clubs, caregiver cafés, and book clubs are some examples of this type of support. Sometimes these connections are a more comfortable way for caregivers to support each other.
While we can’t list every support option here, we can direct caregivers to organizations that facilitate support groups and events or can direct you to other local groups. Most groups are free or may ask for a free-will donation.
State and Local Organizations offer both in-person and virtual options for caregiver support groups and other events:
Contact the Family Caregiver Support Program Coordinator in your county or tribe to find support groups and events in your area.
Virtual Support Groups and Events are being facilitated by program coordinators around the state. Any family caregiver is welcome to join.
Every county and tribe in Wisconsin has an Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) that has staff who can share information about support groups and events in your area. Visit the website to find the contact information for your county/tribe.
The Alzheimer's Association-Wisconsin Chapter facilitates regional and statewide virtual support groups. You can also call 800.272.3900 to ask about support group options.
The Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance is a local resource for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia in south-central Wisconsin. They host a variety of support groups and other programs that support family caregivers.
National Organizations host online, telephone, and virtual support groups:
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a number of online and telephone support groups. They also host ALZConnected®, a free online community where people living with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, family, and friends can ask questions, get advice and find support.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America holds free weekly, telephone-based support groups, facilitated by licensed social workers, designed to give caregivers a place to connect and share with one another.
The Caregiver Teleconnection is a program of the WellMed Charitable Foundation. They have one-hour conference calls, at no cost, covering a wide range of interesting topics related to the care you provide to your loved one. You can get expert advice, ask questions and talk to other people who are also providing care.
The Family Caregiver Alliance has a mission to improve the quality of the life for family caregivers and the people who receive their care. They facilitate and sponsor several types of online support groups.
Hilarity For Charity (wearehfc.com) is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to care for families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, inspire the next generation of Alzheimer’s advocates, and be leaders in brain health research and education. They offer a number of free, online, and drop-in support groups each week.
The VA Caregiver Support Program offers a Peer Support Mentoring Program that links you to a peer — someone who has experienced similar challenges and situations — to provide you with additional support and guidance along your journey. The program was developed to strengthen relationships between caregivers, provide an opportunity for networking, and empower caregivers to help one another. It is open to family caregivers of all Veterans.
The Community Resource Finder gives you an opportunity to search for support groups in your area. It is sponsored by AARP and the Alzheimer's Association.
If you try but don’t like one group, don’t give up -- try another group. It may become one of your most important supports in your journey as a caregiver.