Alzheimer’s Support Groups

Support groups provide vital links to other caregivers and an opportunity to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and ways to cope. Florida’s Pasco and Pinellas Counties have more than 50 Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders support groups. Joining a group of other caregivers can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do for yourself. New friendships are made. You will receive encouragement, the latest research information, and helpful suggestions for caring for the Alzheimer’s patient and one’s own neglected needs. This is some of what makes up a support group.

Caregivers can share things that no one else thought to tell. Caregivers are a special group of people who care for each other through good times and bad times. Sometimes another caregiver is the one link back to society when it seems as if everyone else has abandoned you and your care recipient. Alzheimer’s Disease robs a person of his memory, abilities, personality and self. It is brutal and relentless. It makes a person unrecognizable to himself or herself. Caregiving for a person with a form of dementia is a very hard task, and it becomes a bit easier with some physical and emotional nourishment.

Support groups usually consist of family members who provide a caring, non-judgmental support network. Each group has a different personality. You may have to try a couple to find one that feels comfortable. Drop in on one and see what a difference it will make in your life. Some groups meet in facilities that provide free adult day care while you attend the meeting. This is a perfect opportunity to relax a bit, enjoy a cup of coffee and ask questions of the other members of the group to see if they have a solution to the current problems you are experiencing. You could also just sit and listen. Some people are unable to speak for the first few meetings. That, too, is perfectly acceptable. Just listening can help you to gather and renew your strength.

Some of the testimonials that have been said about joining a support group are:

  • It saved my life.
  • It is my anchor.
  • We can cry with no shame attached.
  • We have become an extended family.
  • No one else understands what I am going through.
  • A safe place to let out my true feelings and to actually laugh again.
  • Learning how to handle challenging behaviors in a positive way has made a big difference in my attitude.

Support groups usually offer guidance on who to call for legal advice, respite care, financial and insurance information, state Medicaid assistance, placement issues, feelings of guilt and anger, veterans benefits, clinical studies, latest Alzheimer’s drugs that are available, companionship, comfort and so much more.

To find out about Alzheimer’s support groups in west central Florida, call the Alzheimer’s Association, Gulf Coast Chapter. The Chapter headquarters can be reached at 727-578-2558 in Pinellas County. Their Helpline (1-800-272-3900) is available toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may visit their web site to find support group meetings and other caregiver events and resources here.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a program for care partners and people with the disease called BASE (Beginning Alzheimer’s Support and Education program). The mission of the Beginning Alzheimer’s Support and Education (BASE) program is to provide education, resources, skill-building tools and support toindividuals who are directly or indirectly affected by early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The national Alzheimer’s Association website has a chapter finder for caregivers in other areas.

For questions to ask before joining a support group and several additional ways to find support groups in Pinellas County, Florida, see The Four Stages of Caregiving, Stage Two, section 3.  Join a support group on our web site.

Many web sites for caregivers and for families affected by Alzheimer’s or other diseases offer chapter and support group information by area, and some offer online support groups. See Caregiver Web Sites (for all caregivers) and Recommended Reading and Viewing for Alzheimer’s Caregivers.