Dear Barbara, I am interested in starting a caregiver support group, any ideas? Also, I’ve been hearing a lot about End of Life doulas, can you tell me more and how to become one.
The first question I have to ask is, what are your qualifications to run a support group? Just wanting to conduct one doesn’t mean you know how to do it or have the knowledge of how to guide, support, and comfort others.
Before you begin, make sure you have the personal tools to not just implement a support group but the ability to provide help and assist those in attendance. You might think of finding a social worker to be the group leader. You do the groundwork, he/she facilitates the group.
Getting the word to caregivers that there is such a thing as a support group may be challenging. You might talk with church groups, case managers, hospital discharge planners, and maybe even talk with hospices about your support offering. Consider starting small by just offering it to your church members and see what happens. That gives you a chance to make adjustments and learn from the gatherings.
Also, it is hard for caregivers to actually leave the house. They often need someone to stay with their special person. They have time issues with their caregiving responsibilities. Maybe you offer your support group via Zoom so people can stay home and still participate.
About becoming an end of life doula: there are many courses, each offering the basics with each leader offering her/his own energy, direction and interpretations.
Do your research of each course and be sure to actually talk with the course leader. Ask questions, get a feel of the personality and the course energy. Some courses have continued support after graduation (which I think is good), some are more embracing than others, some more mental, some more emotional. Research many, narrow the list down, and then interview your top several. This process of elimination will help you find the personality fit for you.
End of Life Doula work is special work. It is heart centered as much as mental, educational, and support work so you want to find a course that fits your personality and your heart.
Something More About... Caregiver Support Group As An End of Life Doula
I have a bundle of resources that end of life doulas and hospice agencies use to support patients and families facing end of life. It is called The End of Life Caregiver Bundle. It will be most helpful for those seeking your group.