Working as a CDPAP caregiver is an incredibly rewarding job. However, it often comes with a great deal of emotional, physical, and mental stress. One of the best ways to manage this stress is by talking it out and receiving support from people who are going through the same thing.
Why Would Caregivers Benefit from a Support Group?
Joining a support group has so many benefits. Depending on where the majority of your stress lies, you can get support in different ways. Support groups can combat caregiver stress and burnout by giving them a safe space where they can vent their frustrations and get tips for balancing work and life.
Caregivers are at risk for various mental health disorders, as their work stress is a catalyst for many types of emotional frustration. Learning to compartmentalize and leave work at work is an important component to staying mentally healthy.
What are some of the specific advantages you can gain by joining a CDPAP support group?
Caregiver Support Group Advantages
Being a part of a support group helps you see that you are not alone. There are hundreds, even thousands, of other CDPAP aides out there in the world providing care. Most (if not all) of them are feeling the same things you are. You are normal!
Just because there are a lot of people working in this field, though, doesn’t mean that it’s easy. You need to have the right tools to combat mental health struggles and stay in a positive frame of mind. When you regularly attend a support group, you’ll not only learn the tools to stay mentally and emotionally healthy, but you’ll have a place to practice them so that they become second nature.
Self-care is a hot topic nowadays, and with good reason. It’s important to normalize caring for yourself, especially when the majority of your day is spent caring for other people. When you see that there are others out there who are making sure that they care for themselves, it will help you feel good about doing it for yourself.
Self-care through attending your support group doesn’t have to end there, either. You will probably be making connections with these people that can extend outside of the group. Participate in some other self-care activities together, like going for walks, attending exercise classes, or going out for coffee or a healthy meal.
Support groups almost always come with a confidentiality stipulation. This means that whatever is shared in the group stays in the group. You won’t have to worry that the honest, true, raw, sometimes hard things that you have to say are going to be shared all over town and possibly get back to your clients. When you share your feelings and experiences inside of a support group, you know that they’ll stay there.
It can be overwhelming, though, to know what to look for when searching for the right group. Here are some ground rules that a group should have.
What to Look for in a Caregiver Support Group
There are many types of support groups available. You’ll want to research them and make sure that they fit your personal needs, schedule, and communication style.
Some of the things you’ll want to look for are a leader and group members with a professional demeanor, a group that has some years of experience, and clear goals set by the group.
This doesn’t mean groups of people that have all their certifications (although every CDPAP caregiver should have these). It means that the group professionally conducts itself. You will be sharing sensitive, emotional stories and feelings, so people should speak and listen respectfully and with empathy, instead of with an unkind, flippant attitude.
You also want to be a part of a group that works professionally and shares those experiences. If you hear of abuse or neglect happening, you may be under obligation to report it (these types of information don’t fall under the confidentiality clauses that most groups have).
Again, this doesn’t mean a group with members who have all been in the field for a long time. Even the new caregivers need support! This means that you want an established group that has been around for a while. The leaders and the dynamics of the group will be established, giving structure and foundation that will help everyone receive the best type of support available.
It could be easy for a group of aides to just sit around and talk “at” each other, which often doesn’t give people the support they need. The group you choose should have a routine and flow, with specifically outlined goals that it tries to achieve for each member.
Even with all these foundations given, there is still a range of choices available. What are the types of groups out there?
Types of Support Groups
There are many types of groups for a variety of caregiver needs.
1. Condition-specific groups – Everyone in this group shares something in common, such as caregivers with children of their own, caregivers with sick family members, divorced caregivers, etc.
2. Groups targeting different kinds of caregivers – These are groups for specific types of caregiving jobs, such as elderly clients, cancer patients, Alzheimer’s patients, etc.
3. Peer-led support groups – These groups are led by current caregivers.
4. Groups led by a trained facilitator – The leaders in these groups have gone through specified training and often have leader certifications.
5. Online and telephone caregiver groups – It’s not easy to get out of the house for one more thing! Having the flexibility to attend group meetings over the computer or phone can be a relief.
6. Support groups for young caregivers – Many people get into this field early on in life. It’s a different skill set to learn when you’re a young adult yourself!
7. Caregiver education groups – These groups provide education and training for new or veteran caregivers wanting to add to their skill sets.
You might be wondering if it costs anything extra to attend these groups. Caregivers often don’t make as much money as they deserve, right?
How Much Does a Support Group Cost?
Many groups are free or run off of donations that go back to the operating costs of the group. Some groups have monthly or yearly fees ranging from $25 to $250. Those with larger attendance fees usually provide a stipend to the facilitator.
Depending on where you live, you’ll have different options of groups available to you.
5 NY Caregiver Support Groups
If you live in the New York area, here are five reputable places to search for a CDPAP support group that fits your needs:
o The New York State Caregiving and Respite Coalition (NYS CRC)
o Services Now for Adult Persons (SNAP)
o Willing Hearts, Helpful Hands
o New York Elders Caregiver Support Program
Remember, as a caregiver, it is of utmost importance that you also care for yourself. You can’t give from an empty cup, so fill yourself up and utilize the tools available to you so that you can be an effective caregiver and a positive, happy human.