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Monday, February 15, 2016

Find a Healing Community Online

Online Resources for Seniors and Caregivers

It may seem like the last place to turn when you need emotional support for a health crisis, but websites can offer links to support groups in your area and forums in which to share ideas and concerns. You may also get help and find answers to your questions.

Recently, in the arthritis support group on the website Support Groups, someone newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis sought encouragement from others: “I feel pretty overwhelmed and alone right now. . . . Any help and knowing [that] people are there would be appreciated.” In response, someone wrote comforting words: “[Rheumatoid arthritis] is not the end of the world, but it sure can seem like it when you finally get a diagnosis. . . . You need time to find your new normal. Hang in there. Reach out to others and be good to yourself.”

Two websites provide the opportunity to create an online community of caring people. CaringBridge allows you to create a page for yourself or someone else who is suffering. You can post updates/information on the hardship—whether it’s cancer, the loss of a loved one or becoming disabled—plus photos and videos. Friends can respond with words of support, ask questions and offer to help. Since 1997, more than half a million CaringBridge websites have been created.

Lotsa Helping Hands provides similar services but focuses more on organizing help for the person who needs it—whether it’s car rides to the hospital, meals or daily visits. Its Help Calendar automatically coordinates those who sign up, even sending reminders. You can also list information about medications, doctors, allergies and insurance.

Nearly 66 million Americans care for an aging, seriously ill or disabled family member or friend, estimates Medicare, which provides a website that offers resources, stories and newsletters for caregivers. Topics include what every caregiver needs to know, caring for someone with a chronic illness, caregiver support available in your area and a caregiver resource kit.

Local governments and Area Agencies on Aging often provide resources that can be found through their online sites. To find your Area Agency on Aging, use the federal government’s website Administration through Community Living. Many states also have websites that list local resources. For example, through Support Groups in Kansas, you can find different support groups and their phone numbers.

Organizations devoted to one illness or issue also have a wealth of resources through their websites. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association provides message boards and chat rooms, where a caregiver can post a question about the signs of dementia, or someone with Alzheimer’s can talk about their experience. At the same time, the association will connect you to a support group in your area for face-to-face conversation.

The American Cancer Society offers a wealth of information, including a National Cancer Information Center. This center provides information and support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, via phone, email or live chat, to those facing cancer. An online Cancer Survivors Network connects you with others, via discussion boards, chat rooms and private email. You can create your own personal space to tell others about yourself, share photos, start an online journal (blog), contribute resources and more. The organization’s provides a free Web page with which cancer patients and caregivers can connect with family and friends, share updates and photos, organize the help you need through the Helping Calendar and get support from friends and family.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers resources, including information about support groups, for those with or taking care of someone with mental illness.

Several groups offer support for those suffering from arthritis. One of them is Creaky Joints, which can link you to an arthritis support group near you.

Find a Healing Community Online is a featured article in the February 2016 Senior Spirit newsletter.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors