I am about to start a support group for residents at my assisted living facility. Any guidance would be helpful.

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I am 67 but I have MS and am in a wheelchair. Three years ago, my husband, who was also my caregiver, passed away with cancer. I had to sell my home, have an estate sale and find homes for our three dogs. Our daughters were grown, but one had become a heroin addict and was on the streets. We didn't know where she was. Amidst all this, I found an assisted living facility and moved in. I was shell shocked for several months until, with prayer and encouragement from friends and family, I pulled myself together, made new friends, became an officer in the Resident's Council and took a deep breath. Now this is home. By the way, my daughter went through rehab and is doing very well now. Very proud of her. The point of all this is that there are so many of us who come to assisted living with stories like mine. They've given up homes, neighbors, said goodbye to spouses. When they come here, I'm not kidding, their eyes reflect sadness like a soldier who has just been through combat. I want to start a support group for people who are in transition, like I was. A friend from church who has a lot of experience with support groups is going to facilitate it. We have been given the go ahead from the director here, and provided a room. I think I can advertise it. But what I need help with is - what do I say to these people to help them feel that they belong to a new community? That their lives are not over. That new friends and experiences are waiting for them. And, most of all, there are people here who care.

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Thanks so much for sharing. You'very given me a lot to think over.
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Reply to MarciaF
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Good going Marcia!
Remember...
"When you speak FROM the heart,
you speak TO the heart."

Tell your story and focus on how you "felt" during different events. Pick things that the others might relate to. People are drawn to people who "feel" the same as them, share those feelings. Great friendships with strong bonds can grow from your group.

Open with a prayer and close with one....if you'd like. Holding hands during this is powerful.

Best of luck... update us!!!
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Reply to Pepsee
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Marcia, congratulations on your progress, and on taking this new step to extend compassion and support to fellow residents.

I think it's natural that people will feel a bit uncomfortable at first, not knowing the others present, not knowing what to say, how frank to be.

Perhaps the facilitator can begin the first session, offering her own insight and experience, and how group meetings helped her. If she can create a bond through common background, they can identify with her.

I found that bonding also occurs over getting cups of coffee, tea or a glass of water, and from taking advantage of the good desserts the sponsors prepared. Chatting over food can be an "icebreaker."

I went through something similar when I took a Creating Confident Caregivers' course through the Alzheimer's Assn. It was easy to see that each of us were wondering how frank to be, whether our situation was unique (I wasn't an ALZ caregiver per se but I wanted to learn whatever was available through a professional association).

I honestly don't remember how we began to speak frankly, but I believe it was when the coordinator discussed common experiences and solutions. As heads began to nod around the table, I think we felt as if we were in similar situations, and began talking.

Yours is a very insightful question; I want to think about this some more and post again later.

And congratulations on taking this big step as well as in turning your life onto such a productive path.
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