What is a support group?
A support group is a gathering of people whose lives have been similarly impacted by a disease. They have come together to seek information, discuss their concerns and share their mutual experiences on all aspects of the disease. Support groups are also a place to give and receive emotional and practical support to others who are in the same situation. Parkinson’s support group meetings provide you with a chance to:
- Share information about medical diagnosis, treatments, research and strategies;
- Talk about your feelings and receive confirmation that there are others dealing with the same challenges;
- Compare common symptoms and ways that each person has handled the symptoms;
- Discuss issues that are unique to care partners and family members of people with Parkinson’s disease; and
- Learn from expert speaker presentations.
Support groups are made up of people with common interests and experiences. People who have been through, or are going through, a similar circumstance can do more than sympathize with you — they can relate to your situation and keep you from feeling like you are alone. Support group members offer firsthand insight on many aspects of navigating the disease.
For some people, the most difficult step is walking through the door, but most find that once they make the decision, they find the experience to be helpful and supportive. Remember, a support group is not a substitute for medical treatment or professional counseling and it is not a replacement for family and friends.
When do support groups meet?
Support group meetings are typically held once a month. Some groups may choose to meet more frequently or less often depending on the needs of the group. The meeting is set by the group leader in the initial planning stages. Evening and weekend groups are not typical or ideal, but may likely benefit participants who are working. If the existing groups in your area are not convenient for you, you may want to contact our Program Manager to see about starting a new group.
Anyone can start a support group. Support group leaders are not experts, in fact, most are volunteers. Leaders may be a patient, caregiver or healthcare partner. Most group leaders are lay people who have a personal connection to Parkinson’s disease. Maintaining a group does require a consistent effort on the part of the group leader, but the leader should not absorb all of the responsibilities for the group. It may be helpful to delegate tasks at the first or second meeting.
What can PAC do to help a support group?
PAC strives to provide group leaders with ongoing support to design and facilitate meetings that are in-line with participants’ expectations and needs. So whether you’re starting a new group, transitioning to a leadership role or need to refresh your meetings, PAC is here to help. The Program Manager is available to assist group leaders in their efforts and can be reached toll-free at 866-903-PARK (7275). PAC also maintains a list of individuals and organizations that are willing to speak to support groups on the challenges patients encounter during their journey.
- Support Group Meeting Ideas
- Starting a Support Group
- Looking Forward-Moving Ahead! Support Group Leaders Manual – National Parkinson Foundation
- NC Moving Day Grant, Request for Applications, Application Template
The Parkinson Association of the Carolinas helps to support nearly 80 volunteer-led support groups throughout North and South Carolina. For assistance, please contact the Program Coordinator, Dianna Beaty, at 704-248-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.