Caregiver support group fills local need

There’s no need to feel alone

People in Houston who provide care of all kinds no longer need to feel they are all alone in what they do.

Whether it’s care for a family member or friend or someone else, a support group which meets twice a month offers a safe place for caregivers to listen to others and to share their experiences.

“It’s a safe place to talk. That’s the idea,” says Roberta Russell, a life skills worker with the Northern Health Authority’s mental health and addictions services office in Houston.

She got the idea two years ago based on observing what was going on in the community and in discussions with Sheila Smith, one of Northern Health’s two clinicians in Houston.

“We recognized there was a need, just in what we observed,” said Russell.

“Our aim is to have a safe place where someone isn’t judged, that’s confidential,” she added.

“It’s a place where people can connect with each other, to help each other, to connect to other services if need be.”

Just as important is knowing that a caregiver isn’t alone in what he or she may face, there are others with similar experiences, Russell continued.

“People can learn from each other,” she said.

The group is small in numbers, fluctuating between three and five people at the twice-monthly sessions but Russell hopes more people will begin to turn out.

“It’s very informal; that’s important,” she said.

One aspect that is stressed is the need for a caregiver to pay attention to his or her own care.

“Self-care. That’s important. Take 15 to 20 minutes to read, to go for a walk, to get your hair done. Do something specific for yourself,” Russell said.

“If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.”

Winter is considered a particularly tough time of year for caregivers when weather and darkness may cause them to feel increasingly isolated.

Aside from the meetings, Russell said caregivers often connect informally just to share a few moments of conversation or for a brief meeting.

“If you have a go-to person, that can help to alleviate stress,” she added.

The Caring for the Caregiver group’s twice-monthly meetings take place the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Houston Public Library.

More information is available from Russell at 250-845-5964.

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