When we surveyed Dementia Support Group Facilitators and asked what was their biggest challenges, maintaining members was high on the list. All support groups will go through times of lower attendance.
How the Without Warning Group Encourages Attendance
- Create a place of community that is welcoming
- Connect members to each other (we maintain a voluntary membership directory allowing families to connect outside of group)
- Develop social outings
- Create purpose for the members, such as a mentor program between members and encouraging members to share their stories in panel presentations for healthcare professionals, conferences, and media requests
- Develop a system for attendance and check in with families who have not attended in some time
- Have advisory councils made up of group members that give direction to the program
- Regularly survey the participants so they can give direction to the group
Structure and Routine
Creating a structure and routine is helpful in maintaining members. There is comfort in knowing what to expect in a group. This is especially true for people with dementia but it also helps for the caregivers too. Consider how you begin the group and end the group. We all feel more comfortable when there is a rhythm to the experience.