Part of staying fit as a senior can involve being connected to a community of like-minded individuals. When cancer or other chronic disease strikes, such a support group can make a huge difference in both bodily healing and emotional well-being. Of course, confidentiality is necessary in any such group to ensure emotional well-being of participants.
Group for Seniors with Chronic Diseases
There is a need for this group to meet separately from the senior caregiver group since the basic issues are specific to the situation. The patients, by definition, are tuned in to their immediate physical and medical needs. They need to concentrate on this in order to survive both physically and emotionally.
Chronic pain is often a challenge they must face and often dread. The older adults with serious illness have particular problems to be dealt with including grief as well as continued medical, financial and personal struggles.
Group for Senior Caregivers and Spouses
The issues and needs of this group are completely different from those of the patient group. Even though the senior caregivers share the same concerns as the patients, they also have particular issues of their own. Stress is one of the number one senior caregiver problems. Older adults who take care of chronically ill patients often end up with illnesses of their own which are either caused by, or worsened by, stress.
These senior caregivers are often so busy attending to doctor appointments, medications, figuring out how to survive financially, and offering daily care to the patient in question that their own needs can go unnoticed. The need for respite and renewal is great in order to avoid burnout.
Facilitators Needed for Both Groups of Seniors
The seniors who face chronic illness daily find it helpful if they have a trained facilitator. It often needs to be a volunteer since there are not usually extra funds available to fund such services. It could be a medical doctor, nurse, social worker, or counselor. Some groups have even found a lay person involved with Can Care (an organization dedicated to the needs of cancer patients) or some similar organization can meet this vital need.
The older adults who act as caregivers also need a facilitator but can manage if one can’t be found. Just having a forum to discuss the complexities of senior caregiving can be therapeutic for this group. At times, a facilitator can be found to come monthly to attend a group which meets weekly. No doubt more regular attendance would be ideal, but often can’t be easily found.
One way to find a group leader is to check with local mental health facilities or the local college or medical school for a trainee who needs field experience. Even though most groups prefer an experienced professional, it is worth considering acceptance of trainees or interns since they often put their heart and soul into these types of learning opportunities. Seniors may be tempted to write off the value of student practitioners, yet this may be a good source to tap.
Shared Social Activities for Both Groups
This provides much-needed social bonding in a setting outside of the setting of illness. Celebrations such as birthdays or other significant occasions allow the group to focus on something other than illness and its related challenges.
A model has been presented for support groups for seniors with chronic diseases and their older adult spouses or caregivers. Regular meetings divided into patient and caregiver groups is advised and a trained facilitator is preferred. At times they even help educate the greater community on how to be a positive influence in the lives of the chronically ill. In addition to these such support groups, online groups for caregivers and folks of the elder population who face daily challenges can be of great help to all concerned. These online support groups (like SmartPatients) are especially helpful if elder people or caregiver cannot make a commitment to go to a support group in your community once a week. But online support is just not easier access, it is much more. Elderly people can remain anonymous, elderly people can say whatever they want, elderly people can be honest with themselves. There are several forms of online support: Message Boards, Discussion Groups, and Support Chats. These groups are also known as forums.
Message boards are a place where people can go and leave a message. It can be a question, a statement, or even how elderly people feel at that particular moment. Once an entry is submitted, others can leave a response. The great thing is that elderly people can also answer other people’s questions. Elderly people may even find that there are other people going through similar situations that they are going through. The idea is to help one another.
Discussion groups are similar to message boards. However, some sites require that users become a member in order to participate in the discussions. The majority of sites are free to join.
Chat groups are different than message boards and discussion groups. Chat groups are interactive. Elderly people actually chat online with other people. Instead of waiting a couple of days for a response, elderly people may get one within a few seconds. Some groups are scheduled, while others are not.
Without any doubt, these support groups provide elderly people with platforms where they can share experience, challenges, and problems. They can seek and provide support to other elderly people.
These forums also help elderly people in meeting their socializing needs. They don’t feel alienated or alone.