Unexpectedly life brings you to your knees,
Just know there are those out there who see just what you see.
Faith, Song by Without Warning member and staff, Sandra Shields and Nancy Swanson
Something special happens in a support group
There can be a comfort in sharing your story in a room with people who completely understand and where there is no judgment.
Through Without Warning, we have seen the benefits of support groups for people with dementia and for the family members. Although caregiver groups are the most common, if it is possible, we would encourage you to consider offering a group for people with dementia. Living with dementia can create a feeling of isolation and bringing people together helps to develop a new community and reduce stigma.
Without Warning members living with dementia share what they like about a support group
For us to be able to have a sense of belonging and not be judged and just accepted how we are is huge.
I think, for me, it’s the validation, the sense of unity, a sense of belonging. Not a fun club to belong to, but nonetheless…
This group makes you feel relevant. This disease with all the devastation it gives, you feel relevant.
Some days it’s not so good and other days are better. I think that when we’re together we can easily talk and give these things out…
Caregivers also benefit from a support group. They can share common experiences, learn new skills, and know they are not alone.
Here are some of the benefits of support groups.
Realize that you are not alone
Dementia can be isolating, and many times people feel like they are the only ones going through this experience. Hearing from others on the same journey often has a greater impact than hearing the same message from health care professionals.
Gather ideas and suggestions
We often have family members come to the Without Warning meetings with notebooks to write down ideas and suggestions. They become a resource for each other and spend time brainstorming on a problem or situation.
Learn about dementia
For many, they are learning about dementia as they move through this experience. Our families have developed a book exchange where they brings in books (or DVDs and articles) to share with each other. These books are placed on a table at each meeting. People are free to take one or more books and bring back when finished.
The Without Warning facilitators provide local resources and have ordered many publications from the National Institute on Aging, which offers free publications on a wide variety of topics.
Be part of a supportive community
One of our Without Warning caregivers once said that there is something healing in the sharing of your story. It does not change what is happening with the dementia, but a burden can feel less when it is shared with others.
Helping to create that space in the group setting becomes the role of the facilitator.
Deep friendships have developed between members of our Without Warning group. Participants meet for social outings, check in with each other through email and text and by phone. They have gone on vacations together speaking to the comfort of being with people who completely understand. We have also had couples, including the people with dementia, help in the selection of long-term care placement for another family.
Improvement in mood and general health
Without Warning members have talked about the improvement of health and mood from attending a support group. During sessions there has been discussion on stress, diet, sleep, and exercise. We have had a yoga instructor talk about how the body holds tension and ways to reduce stress. We had a Reiki instructor work with a group of caregivers to teach techniques to reduce stress for both themselves and their person with dementia.
Creating the space for these benefits falls to the Dementia Support Group Facilitator. The leadership and guidance of the facilitator means so much to the success of the support group.