During the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by caregivers (via this blog’s contact form) for help finding support for themselves in their local communities. I take these requests seriously.
In fact, it would be impossible not to because the caregivers include information about their particular needs. Perhaps it’s empathy, or a sense that we’re in this thing together, that always gives me a little sadness when I read requests for help. I so wish there were a way to eliminate Multiple Sclerosis.
While looking over this week’s emails, I realize that there are a couple of general pointers I can offer to caregivers who are looking for support in their local communities. I’ll summarize them here. They may not work for every MS caregiver, but the principles will hold true for most.
1. Find a religious community you feel comfortable associating with. It’s nearly a universal truth: those who seek relationship with God will have an interest in serving their fellow man. If you have lived in your community for a period of time and have participated in a local faith congregation, you know what I mean. Sunday School classes, Bible study groups, all sorts of small groups seek to minister to others in need. If you become comfortable enough with a local minister to be vulnerable and share your need for support, I think the chances are good that you may find exactly what you need.
2. Don’t limit your search to caregiver support groups related to Multiple Sclerosis. The social services department of many hospitals will offer support groups for caregivers in general, unrelated to a specific disease. Again, in their ministry to the community, many churches will offer caregiver support groups.
Can a non-specific caregiver support group be helpful for you? Will other group members be able to relate to your unique needs as a caregiver for a Multiple Sclerosis patient? Probably, yes. Much of the stress related to being a caregiver is unrelated to the particular disease. Much of it is caused by the emotional issues that arise, the interpersonal struggles that come between you and the person for whom you care, the general issues related to scheduling, managing medical matters, financial difficulties, juggling the parental roles of two when only one parent is able to be active. You get the idea.
3. Use the Internet. The quickest way to find a caregiver support group in your community is to use a search engine and search for: “your town’s name” “multiple sclerosis” “caregiver support group”.
For example, I would search for: Ruston “multiple sclerosis” “caregiver support”.
4. National and international Multiple Sclerosis-related organizations have chapters across the country and around the world. These are good resources for caregivers and patients. Take advantage of the connections they have in your community by visiting the web sites of organizations like National MS Society, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, and the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Center.
5. Finally, don’t give up in your search for support. I cannot stress strongly enough the fact that if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for your loved one. Find the support you need, even if the search for help is a frustrating process. Among religious communities, non-specific caregiver support groups, the Internet and MS-related organizations, support for caregivers is available in many communities.