After spending all day dealing head-on with dementia, the last thing I want to do is spend an evening sitting around and sharing my feelings about it with a bunch of strangers. I want to get away from dementia, not spend more time talking about it!
That was my thinking the first several months after entering the world of my dad’s dementia. But at some point, out of desperation or politeness – I’m not sure which – I finally accepted an invitation to a support group meeting, and I was pleasantly surprised. And now, even though it’s been several months since my dad died, I continue to attend the meetings.
Yes we share “feelings,” but it isn’t a pity party. The all-encompassing sadness of slowly losing a loved-one to dementia is well understood by everyone there; it isn’t necessary to explain or dwell on it. This allows us to move past “poor me” and onto “How do we get through this?”
There is comfort in knowing you’re not alone in the journey, but there are practical benefits to a support group as well. The other members have “Been there – Done that.” They have current, local referrals and information. There is always someone who has experienced something similar to your current situation and can offer advice or encouragement.
The support groups I’ve gone to are hosted at assisted living communities with dementia care; they are open to anyone who wants to come. The Alzheimer’s Association website (alz.org) can also help you find a group.
And you don’t have to be a family member to benefit from a support group; if you care about someone who is dealing with dementia, the insight and information you pick up will be a blessing.