When coping with a challenging health condition like diabetes, osteoarthritis, coronary heart disease, or cancer, family and friends offer wonderful support.
However, caregivers and other support can get ‘burned out,” or there are aspects of your condition you don’t want to share, or you need practical, disease management input that they simply can’t provide.
Support Groups for the Win
There’s an answer: Join a support group. It’s more tha a social outlet: you’ll be with people who know exactly what you are going through. Other benefits include:
- Learning and sharing coping strategies.
- A safe environment to discuss embarrassing, awkward or difficult private medical or health concerns.
- Reduced anxiety, depression or fatigue.
- Help to stay motivated managing chronic conditions or sticking to treatment plans.
- Getting new dietary suggestions and meal ideas when food and diet options are restricted.
Diabetes support groups
Diabetes patients cope with the exhausting, sometimes overwhelming roller-coaster of fluctuating blood sugar levels. In addition to emotional support, group support members offer invaluable, practical been-there, done-that advice. Find a group here.
Cancer Support Groups
Cancer groups vary depending on the type of cancer (e.g., breast, prostate, etc.) and whether one is under treatment or in remission. Regardless of circumstances, attendees of cancer support groups report significant decreases in depression, increased zest for life, and a new attitude toward their illness. Here’s a good option to search for a support group near you. Additionally, most hospitals either have or can direct you to a support group.
Heart Disease Support Groups
Heart disease patients’ lives are particularly enhanced by social contact. According to Yale School of Medicine’s Professor Matthew Berg, the “stress-busting” effect of human social connections and interactions for coronary patients is undeniable. “Social support is good and not having it is bad”, he says; without it, the risk of adverse events can double.
Alzheimer’s Disease Support Groups
Alzheimer’s Disease patients coping in the early stages of the condition as well as family providing help and support really need to talk and share – and can, via support groups found in this database searchable by zipcode.
These are just the tip of the iceberg.
Finding A Support Group
- Begin by checking with your health care provider.
- Most conditions and illnesses have a national organization to support research, raise awareness and funds – and help patients find local support groups. There’s even a National Organization for Rare Disorders with a master list of patient organizations.
- Try checking available online outlets ( Meetup, Facebook, etc.) and check search engines for in-person groups in your area and/or online groups anywhere.
Tips For Joining A Support Group
If you feel vulnerable – and cautious, too — here’s advice:
- Expect to attend several group meetings before you feel comfortable.
- Participate at a pace that’s comfortable, even if it’s remaining silent.
- If the group isn’t a good “fit”, find another.
- Attend at least three sessions before deciding group support isn’t for you.
Online Support Groups
While in-person meetings provide the gratifying opportunity to meet, talk and socialize, sometimes attending isn’t possible (too far to drive; difficulty finding parking or health and/or mobility issues).
The good news? Online support groups are proliferating. The choice isn’t in-person meetings OR online meetings: You can take advantage of message boards, listservs, webinars, chats and more.
Louise (a pseudonym) described her post-diagnosis experience. “The monthly in-person group meetings were helpful but I needed more.
“At first I spent up to four hours a day on message boards reading others’ helpful posts and posting my own questions.
“Because many of the boards were in different time zones – and different countries! — I often posted a question at night and woke the next morning to helpful replies.”
“I would never have been able to press my doctor for the amount of help and support I needed in those early weeks. It was the support groups – in-person and online – that took me over the finish line.”
have you tried a support group? Did it help you? Let us know in the comments!
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.