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Tools For Starting a Caregiver Support Group

By Kristine Dwyer, LSW

(Page 2 of 2)

Expect the attendance of the group to ebb and flow especially in the early months as the group is forming. Encourage family members as well as friends to attend the meetings. A core group may begin to emerge after several months as participants find mutual support and bond with others in the group. Regular attendance also increased when tasks were delegated and participants played a part in the group such as helping to set up the resource table, bringing treats, handing out nametags, or welcoming newcomers. Another option is to offer free blood pressures or prize drawings for massages, meal coupons or other items that support caregivers and encourage attendance. 

As the group develops, keep it small. The purpose of the group is to allow time for each person to listen and share, but this becomes more difficult if the group size exceeds 12. You may want to consider splitting the group if it becomes too large and impersonal.

Spend the first few meetings getting to know each other and identifying the needs and interests of the group. Educational speakers, videos and presentations can be scheduled later on. Some groups have decided to alternate between having a speaker one month and open discussion the next month.

Create a buddy system and a phone roster so that participants can call upon each other for help and support between group meetings.

Finally, remember that each group is as unique as its leadership and members. Make the most of that uniqueness and build on the groupís strengths and ideas.  Caregiver groups are designed to offer mutual support, resources, education and hope for the future. 


Kristine Dwyer is the Caregiver Consultant and Group Facilitator for Carlton County Public Health, Cloquet, Minnesota


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