Support groups are made up of people with common needs and experiences. Their members help each other in many ways:
Groups can be coordinated by a support organisation, like a community health centre, disability or carer support service. Others are organised by carers themselves and meet at a private house or in a public space like a local library or café.
Most groups meet regularly (perhaps for a couple of hours once a month) at the same time and place. There is usually no charge, although some groups ask for a small contribution for refreshments.
A group facilitator is responsible for contacting members, dealing with administration and running the sessions. Facilitators might also help keep members up-to-date with new developments or arrange guest speakers on topics of interest to the group.
Support groups often discuss very personal situations. It is important that every member feels the group is a safe place to talk about difficult things and is confident that what they talk about will stay within the group. The facilitator is also responsible for making sure that the members of a group discuss and agree group policies on confidentiality and mutual respect.
Every care situation is different and support groups vary to meet the needs of their members.
Ask yourself if a particular group makes you feel comfortable and if it is meeting your needs. If one group doesn't feel right, try a different one.
Are the meetings held at a time that suits you and can you get to them easily?
The group facilitator may be able to help you organise transport. Your regional respite and carer support organisation may also be able to help you organise respite care or transport to attend a group.
Do you have things in common with the other members of the group?
Many groups are open to carers whatever their care situation. Others may focus on the needs of a particular group, perhaps a parent caring for a child with a disability, carers of people with a specific illness or condition, or people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Do your needs match those of the other members?
Think about what you want from the group. Are you mainly looking for companionship, a place to openly discuss your feelings, or for information and tips to help you with caring? Make sure that you feel comfortable with the emotional dynamics of the group and that other members want to focus on the same types of things that you do.
Is the group well run?
Look for signs that the group is established and well organised:
Carers Victoria has a number of programs that can support and resource your carer support group: