By Patricia LaCroix, Contributing Writer
When you think of Facebook, a lot of things might come to mind: An outlet to express yourself. A way to connect with old friends and relatives. Political rants. Funny (and not-so-funny) memes. Cute cat videos.
What you might not have considered is that it’s also a great way for you, as a caregiver to a family member, to get support. A number of Facebook groups exist solely for the support of family caregivers.
Why use social media for support?
At the time this article is being written, the world, thanks to COVID-19, is a very different place than it was even just last year. Many people are staying in place as much as possible. Many support groups for caregivers have canceled their in-person meetings. People are no longer in touch — literally, as well as figuratively.
Social media — and Facebook in particular — allows for communication and interaction, albeit virtual, for caregivers, many of whom would have little to none otherwise. But such socialness is very much at the heart of who we are as human beings. Family caregivers can often get deprived of that social interaction, and as such, can find a decline in their own mental and emotional state of health.
How social media helps support caregivers
There are two ways that social media groups on Facebook can help caregivers.
One way is through the many groups dedicated to family caregivers (of which many are listed below). These groups are made of other family caregivers — people in the same boat as you. In caring for a loved one, the people in these groups have gone through similar struggles and have faced similar problems as you. They can express empathy for your situation. As people who have “been there, done that,” they can suggest advice. They can help to brainstorm ideas. And they can simply “listen” while you express yourself.
Often, these people are a much better “sounding board” than one’s own family members, who might have their own personal thoughts and even misunderstandings about what life as a family caregiver is like.
Another way these social media groups can help is via groups on other subjects and topics that go beyond caregiving. Caregiving can be an all-encompassing endeavor. It can feel like — and truly be — that all you experience and focus on is the care of another human being. It’s not usual for caregivers to get lost in that role and lose a sense of themselves and their own identities.
You are a unique human being. You have your own likes and dislikes. You need the time and place to explore them. But that’s not always possible, especially if your loved one for whom you provide care lives with you.
Facebook groups can give you that outlet to experience and discuss subject matter you enjoy. Whether it’s your love of Shih Tzu dogs, or your passion for muscle cars, or your enjoyment of old movies, a short search through Facebook can reveal a number of groups that you can check out when you have a spare moment. It’s only as far as your laptop or smartphone — so grabbing that moment that’s purely for yourself can be quick and easy.
5 Facebook groups that support caregivers
To make your search a little easier for you, we’ve created a list of five links to Facebook’s most popular groups that specifically support family caregivers. Most are private, which means that only approved members can come in. This can help preserve your privacy and make it a safer place to express yourself without fear. With private groups, you often must answer some questions before being approved as a member. These questions are usually quite simple and non-invasive. They exist to ensure that only members with sincere intent are allowed into the group. There will also most likely be rules that you’ll have to accept and agree to keep in order to gain entry into the group. Again, these are setup to help keep the group functioning in a safe way that’s pleasant and productive for all of the participants.
Without further adieu, here are some of the most popular Facebook groups that support family caregivers! You can get to the group’s page on Facebook by clicking its name. Under each group’s name you’ll find the approximate number of members of the group, as well a description of the group, according to the group’s administrator. Please note: ALL of the following groups are PRIVATE. Check them out for yourself, and see if they can make a positive difference in your day-to-day life as a caregiver.
Number of members: 12,000
About this group
“This group is to give encouragement to caregivers of all walks of life (private, family member, or professional)! This is a judgment free zone and a safe place! Please feel free to share!”
Number of members: 5,300
About this group
“This is a group for family caregivers — and the people who love and support them. We share information, understanding, empathy, and resources so that caregivers never feel alone or unsupported in their efforts. There are 44 million of us in the U.S. providing care to a loved one. We’re on the clock 24/7/365, making it hard to catch up with friends, exercise — or even leave the house. Many of us care for spouses or parents who don’t even remember our name. That’s why we’re here. Join us.”
Number of members: 2,900
About this group
“I am caregiver of my 92-year-old mother. She is dependent on me to make decisions both financially and medically. Sometimes I don’t know if I am making the right decisions. This group is for others who care for elderly parents. This group is open to anyone who may have questions, input, or just needs to vent.”
Number of members: 34,500
About this group
“Any form of dementia is devastating to the dementia patient as well as family members. It’s a huge health crisis in our country. Those affected by it are only growing in numbers. So, I started this group for dementia caregivers and anyone else interested in this topic. I hope that members can support each other by posting caregiving suggestions, ways to de-stress, new discoveries in regard to dementia treatment/ prevention and just simply overall encouragement and guidance to members… especially on days when your energy and motivation start to dwindle. Please, please share with anyone you know who may be affected in any way with this horrendous disease.”
Number of members: 1,100