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As a caregiver, you are constantly making decisions on behalf of your loved one. Often these challenges can be difficult. The knowledge you need to master can be complex or highly technical, and the decisions you’re confronted with can involve a high level of uncertainty. At such times, there’s not only strength in numbers but also comfort and wisdom from seeking perspectives of outside professionals.
Your spiritual leader can be a source of guidance in helping you navigate the ethical issues that can be associated with caregiving or in sorting through the consequences of life-changing decisions you may need to make in ways that are consistent with your values. Lawyers, financial planners, insurance agents or bankers who specialize in eldercare issues can also offer professional guidance.
The Internet is a convenient source of information, though not every site you visit is trustworthy. Rather than use a search engine, begin your hunt for relevant, reliable information from some of these trusted sources:
The n4a and AOA websites are particularly useful for helping you find the nearest Area Agency on Aging (AAA). There are 650 groups throughout the United States helping older people and their caregivers by planning, developing and providing in-home and community services.
Because We Care: A Guide for People Who Care was created by the AOA to provide helpful information and a range of practical suggestions covering all aspects of caregiving, from investigating housing options to living with a person with Alzheimer's disease.
Online caregiver support groups, listservs or forums allow you to share information, insight and encouragement at your convenience. These services provide an opportunity to learn from others who face the same challenges you do. And because anyone can join, you benefit from an extremely wide range of experience and expertise that you can access at any time.
A caregiver support group that meets on a set schedule provides one-on-one interaction not available from an Internet forum. Because the members of your caregiver group are from your area, they are familiar with local resources and better able to understand some of the challenges you face. Taking time off to attend a community support group also breaks up your routine, introduces you to new people and allows you time to unwind.
Finding the right support group is personal. Start with recommendations from friends, spiritual leaders and the staff at your community’s Department of Social Services. Look for established groups that are led by someone with experience both as a caregiver and as a facilitator.