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University of South Florida

Supporting Our Caregivers

Everyday, caregivers embrace the uncertainty of the future with courage and strength.

When a loved one faces a serious health concern, time takes on a new meaning. It becomes more precious. Caregivers want to make the best choices for their family member, even for day-to-day activities. But sometimes they may feel at a loss for the right approach.

For National Family Caregivers Month, Eileen Poiley, Director of Education at USF Health’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Center, shares how support groups give caregivers comfort and a safe place to share their stories and learn from others.

“I feel inspired by the commitment these caregivers share as they face difficult challenges with love and concern for their loved ones,” said Poiley, who leads support groups for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I have been leading support groups for many years and the feedback is always the same. Caregivers always say they wished they had attended sooner. They often come hesitantly at the urging of their doctor, a family member or friend, but continue to attend because they realize how helpful it is. Caregiving can be physically and emotionally overwhelming, and caregivers need to take care of themselves, as well as their loved one. Support groups provide an excellent educational, emotional and social outlet,” shared Poiley.

Poiley offers these points when urging caregivers to make use of the encouragement, helpful ideas, and valuable resources offered by support groups.

Safe Haven for Sharing

  • There is validation and peace of mind for caregivers that comes from being able to share honestly how they feel. It is difficult for others who are not involved in the care of their loved one to understand or relate to the challenges of caregiving. Fellow caregivers provide empathy, encouragement and most importantly, a compassionate, listening ear.

Feeling part of a Community

  • Support groups offer a way to meet others who are in similar circumstances, providing the comfort and reassurance that comes from someone who understands what they are going through. Caregivers can feel isolated and overwhelmed at times. Many friendships are forged through support groups.

Advice, I’ve been there.

  • When caring for your loved one, their condition can change rapidly or gradually depending on their diagnosis. Caregivers are trying to meet health needs that are evolving all the time. Support groups provide caregivers a forum for asking questions and receiving practical, hands on suggestions that empower them to help manage these challenges.


  • Caregivers want the best care for their family member. From recommendations for specialists to assisted living facilities to home health care companies, members of support groups provide a wealth of knowledge and opinions on resources and services needed to provide the excellent care caregivers are seeking.
At USF Health, we provide a broad range of support groups at locations across the Tampa Bay area for caregivers of individuals who have been diagnosed with the following conditions:

ALS, Head & Neck Cancer, Post Operative Weight Loss Surgery, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue, Parkinson’s Disease, Ataxia, Huntington’s Disease, Sleep Disorders, Diabetes, Liver Transplant, Depression and BiPolar, Narcolepsy, Facial Paralysis and Neuropathy.

For more details on USF Health’s support groups, access our monthly newsletter.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers
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