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By Sandra Stimson ADC, CALA, CDP
Executive Director,
Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care

Sandra Stimson has experience as a
corporate consultant, Corporate
Trainer and National Speaker. Her
experience is in long term care, as
Activity Director, Director of
Alzheimer's Units and Assistant
Administrator of a 550 bed long term
care county home.  She is
Co-founder of Pet Express Pet
Therapy Club, is a Life Replay
Specialist.  Sandra implements
dementia units nationwide.  Sandra
has written several books, Volunteer
Management Essentials for Long
Term Care and Pet Express Pet
Therapy Program. Sandra has been a
facilitator for Alzheimer's support
groups and is the Awards Chair for the
NJ Association of Activity
Professionals.  Sandra is the
Executive Director of
Council of Certified Dementia

Alternative Solutions in Long Term
Care offers resources for health care
professionals in many areas of
dementia care, care plans,
Snoezelen products, dementia
activity calendars, adult day care
calendars, sensory calendars,
reminisce videos for dementia,
activity books, and dates to
remember, party supplies,
resources and links.

Many facilities are seeing the need for support groups. There are many reasons to have a support group
not only for the residents, but for family and care givers. There are two kinds of support groups in a facility.
In-house support groups that are geared for residents and family members. The second kind, are
support groups that utilize the space of the facility but are for the community only.
The support groups for the community are a great source of referrals for your building and we encourage
you to look into beginning a support group. Most important, you would be providing a needed service for
your community. Some ideas would be Care Giver Support Group, Alzheimer's Support Group and
Bereavement Support Group. A huge Support Group industry that is growing is Gastric By Pass. Many of
the patients are in their 40's to 50's age group and that is the generation caring for their parents and
grandparents. So, you may wish to look into starting that type of support group or host one in your
building. Many of the Gastric Support Groups are an average size of 50 to 100 people and growing.

Some suggestions for In House Support Groups might be, Adjusting to Nursing Home Placement,
Alzheimer's Units Family Support Group, Reminisce Groups, Homeward Bound-for those residents
leaving Rehabilitation, Bereavement and Loss, Death and Dying, Spirituality.

Support Groups offer residents and their family, information and referral information. Acceptance, when
they discover they are not alone in how they feel. Anonymity because they know that what they say in this
group is confidential and it may be the only place they feel comfortable expressing how they feel. Its a
place to help others and bring ideas on how to cope.

Most newspapers and radio stations allow you to advertise at no cost to you. Again, another way to
promote your facility and at the same time provide community service. We advise you to look at the age
group of who you are trying to attract to the group. If its the senior population, we recommend that you
have the meeting in the early afternoon and provide lunch. Many seniors don't want to drive at night. If its
for the 40-50 year old group, provide it in the early evening and again provide a light supper. They may be
rushing from work or home and a light supper would be a welcome attraction for your support group.
Don't forget to post flyers, place in facility newspaper and local TV channel. If you start a new group for the
community, make sure you are listed in all the referral sources such as Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Adult
Day Care, Geriatric Care Managers, Office on Aging, Self Help Clearing House, Non Profit Associations,
AARP and the Library.

The support group should be run by a leader and a co-leader or co- facilitator. No one person can run a
support group alone. The support group leader generally has other responsibilities and needs someone
to share the workload of running a support group. Once you make the commitment to have a support
group, you cannot easily cancel it. People are counting on you. There are many responsibilities to running
a support group from providing information, setting up the group, mailing reminders, keeping a database
of your participants, obtaining speakers and so on. You also need a co-leader who can fill in when there
are vacations, emergencies or sick days. The co-leader cannot only fill in on these dates but share the
responsibilities of the group.

There is information available through the Self Help Clearing House web site on many aspects of
Support Groups. For New Jersey please go to or call 1800 367 6274. The national web
site is and the phone number is 212-817-1822. At this time they do not have an 800
number for the National Office.
Copyright 2004-2005
The Activity Director's Office
All rights reserved
Music: "Peg of My Heart" furnished by Heart and Soul Music "Providing Quality Music for Nursing Homes"