Community Care And The Role Of Alzheimer's Support Groups

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Alzheimer’s disease is a globally pervasive condition that results in progressive cognitive decline. This disease can have a profound impact not only on the individuals affected but also on their family members, often fundamentally altering societal and familial structures. 

As Alzheimer’s disease continues to affect millions of people worldwide, the need for more encompassing and comprehensive care options can become more urgent. One significant aspect of the holistic approach to care is establishing and reinforcing community support structures, particularly via Alzheimer’s support groups. 

When considering support groups, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the benefits that support groups for Alzheimer’s patients can provide, and how to obtain professional and compassionate support, whether you’re someone living with the condition, a caregiver, or the loved one of someone diagnosed. 

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Understanding Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition characterized by its detrimental effects on cognition and behavior. Though it is a type of dementia, the two terms are not interchangeable. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe several diseases that cause changes in the brain that lead to memory loss and language and reasoning difficulties, disrupting everyday functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific variety of dementia—and the most common. Studies show older people with Alzheimer’s often have one or two other kinds of dementia as well, a condition known as mixed dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease can permeate everyday life, creating challenges for those diagnosed, particularly during the early stage of Alzheimer’s, when individuals grapple with the gradual loss of abilities and independence. The transformation of everyday tasks into complex hurdles can be disconcerting for those living with the disease, adding a layer of anxiety to their experiences.

On the other side of the spectrum, Alzheimer’s caregivers may walk a delicate path as they balance their personal lives with the commitment to care for their loved ones. The journey can be filled with unique challenges, including emotional stress, practical difficulties, or a sense of isolation.

Community resources can play a vital role in bridging the gap between individual struggles and societal support. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association offer various resources, ranging from in-person support group meetings to online group sessions that are held virtually. These platforms can provide a much-needed reprieve while lending strength and resilience to individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

The necessity of community care

The challenges posed by living with Alzheimer’s can highlight the various benefits of community care. Within the realm of shared experiences and collective support, the burden of the disease can start to feel lighter for both individuals living with it and their families. One’s community, neighbors, friends, and local organizations can form an extended network providing meaningful assistance, empathy, and relief. 

Recent research has demonstrated that this type of support works. For example, an article in the May 2019 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society about healthcare workforce issues concluded that evidence-based programs focused on supporting caregivers have resulted in fewer nursing home admissions and the use of acute care services.

Among potential community resources are medical professionals with expertise in physical and cognitive health issues. These individuals may also be able to assist in treatment and strategies for managing daily challenges. Community centers and local organizations may host events and activities tailored toward Alzheimer’s patients, providing spaces for those affected by memory-related diseases to engage, interact, and find a sense of belonging. 

One of the most significant community resources may be the opportunity to connect with other caregivers. These connections, often formed through support groups, can be invaluable. They offer a platform for caregivers to share experiences, learn from each other, and draw strength from those around them. The support from the community doesn’t eliminate the hardships of Alzheimer’s, but it can provide a buffer, potentially softening the impact and offering a sense of shared understanding and camaraderie in the journey through Alzheimer’s.  


The role of Alzheimer's support groups

Support groups represent essential elements within a care network that can provide mental, emotional, and practical assistance. They can act as a beacon of strength while facing the disease and enhance resilience among those affected.

Specific caregiver support groups may offer a crucial lifeline to family members navigating the complexities of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Engaging community care and support groups in the management of Alzheimer’s disease can provide significant mental health benefits, enriching the lives of both individuals with the condition and caregivers. By fostering shared experiences, offering coping mechanisms, and serving as a consistent source of support, these groups may play a progressively important role in managing and mitigating Alzheimer’s disease.

Support groups can equip members with tools to navigate the challenges of Alzheimer’s, both practically and emotionally. From understanding the nuances of the disease to coping with daily life challenges, the knowledge shared within these groups can be invaluable. These resources also extend to virtual support groups, ensuring accessibility to those who may find it challenging to attend in-person sessions. 

Building and sustaining supportive communities

Building and sustaining supportive communities for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers can be vital to comprehensive Alzheimer’s care. This process may involve offering an environment that encourages open dialogue about the disease, fosters empathy, and promotes collaborative problem-solving. Efforts could include education to increase public understanding of Alzheimer’s and local events, enabling connection and mutual support. 

Strategies to enhance engagement in support groups include offering various meeting formats, such as in-person, online, or hybrid models, to accommodate different preferences and needs. Ensuring these groups provide value to their members can also be crucial. Value might be achieved by sharing practical coping strategies, providing up-to-date information about Alzheimer’s, or bringing in guest speakers like healthcare professionals or experienced caregivers. 

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Seeking virtual professional support

While certain outlets may be beneficial for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or their loved ones, these support structures don’t substitute for professional mental health services. If symptoms of severe mental health conditions arise or existing symptoms worsen, seeking professional help can be crucial. Support groups can often facilitate these connections, reaffirming their role in promoting well-being in the Alzheimer’s community. However, some people may not access therapy because of a busy schedule or difficulty committing to in-person appointments. 

In these cases, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp can offer a flexible and accessible means of receiving mental health support, which can be particularly vital in the context of Alzheimer’s disease. For caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients who may struggle to find time for themselves amid their responsibilities, online therapy can be a way to connect with a professional therapist at their convenience. 

For patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, online therapy can offer a platform to understand their condition and address related emotional concerns. The incorporation of online therapy within the community care model can enhance its holistic approach to Alzheimer’s care, allowing clients to choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions and access valuable resources. 

Online therapy has also been found effective. One study reviewed the use of telemedicine among older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia or mild cognitive impairment. The literature review reported successful implementation of telemedicine, supported by patient and care partner satisfaction, similar results on cognitive assessment and diagnosis compared to in-person visits, and improvement in outcome measures following rehabilitation. These benefits emphasize the potential of online therapy and telemedicine in Alzheimer’s care and a potentially important role in community care models.


In the journey through Alzheimer’s disease, community care and support groups can be a beacon of resilience. They often represent pillars of strength and understanding, providing critical resources and emotional sustenance to those impacted by the disease. 

Whether convened in person or online, support groups can offer a collective space of empathy, education, and support, potentially making the path through Alzheimer’s less isolating. Amid the inherent challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, community care models and dedicated support groups can present a narrative of hope and a message that individuals do not have to walk the journey alone. Consider contacting a mental health professional online or in your area for further mental health support.

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