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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Choosing the right caregiver support group

When an individual suffers a brain injury (BI), their closest loved ones find themselves unexpectedly thrown into the role of caregiver. Suddenly having to care for a person with a BI can be a new and daunting experience.

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This is why people come together in support groups. Taking it out with others who share a similar experience is an extremely powerful coping method. Listening to other people’s problems and feelings tell us we are not alone. Caregivers share ideas and learn skills from one another.

Keep in mind that support groups are not psychotherapy. The group is there to offer support for issues that impact caregivers, but not delve deeply into personal problems. A good leader won’t let one member derail the focus of the entire conversation. The leader should recognize and refer when a member needs one-on-one counseling or psychological help.

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The Benefits of Support Groups

Simply knowing that there are others out there with going through similar things can be very powerful indeed. This knowledge can ease the feeling burden that sometimes accompanies caring for a loved one. Hearing from others often provided solace to those feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Caregiver support groups offer the chance to learn new skills. People learn from the experience of others regarding learn coping skills. Also, getting together is a great way to spread knowledge about certain skills to help manage responsibilities for the loved one with BI.

Finding the Right Fit

Support groups come in many different styles. Not every type is right for every person. It’s important to discover the one that aligns your personal needs. There is no regulating body for support groups—anyone can start their own. All assemblies differ, to some degree, in their quality, content, and methods. Attending a meeting is the best way to understand the way a particular one work. Try to maintain an open mind. Don’t judge immediately, but give it time. You might attend two or three sessions before deciding if it’s the right one for you. Consider these six questions when choosing.

  • Does the leader have professional credentials such as a support group leader certification? The leader’s training and skill level will affect the experience.
  • How long has it been operating? Poorly run groups often fall apart quickly. This does not mean that every newly formed body is low-quality. However, Long-running groups have a higher likelihood of being well managed, attracting new members, and enjoying longevity.
  • Does the group have clear goals? A clear, upfront objectives help to maintain the focus.
  • Who is the group for? Certain places focus on the general needs of caregivers; whereas, others are specifically equipped for caregivers of people with BI.
  • What is the format? Some have a pre-selected topic for each meeting; whereas, others offer less formal open-ended emotional sharing. Consider if the format feels right to you.
  • How often do they meet? Meeting schedules vary—weekly, monthly, every two weeks, etc. Consider if the frequency of sessions fits your schedule and meets your needed level of support.

Trusting Your Instincts

If you find a group that answers the above questions appropriately, attend a few sessions to get a feel for it. A support group should be a place where members feel comfortable talking openly about their feelings. Trust your gut instincts about how it fits with your personal needs. Ask yourself these seven questions.

  • Do you enjoy the group?
  • Do you see any benefit from attending?
  • Do you leave feeling calmer than when you arrived?
  • When you share, are your thoughts and feelings accepted?
  • Do the responses from the members and leader make you feel comfortable?
  • Does the leader maintain the direction of the discussion logically and not let it meander off topic?
  • Does the leader give everyone the opportunity to speak while not forcing people to share and not allowing any one member to dominate the conversation?

The answer to these questions should be “yes.” If not, perhaps you haven’t found the right place yet. Stay positive. If the one doesn’t work out, keep attending others. Remember, every support group is different, so the right one is out there. The effort spent finding the best fit is worth it.