Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Survival Guide for Support Groups

The following article is from the Stroke Network Newsletter web site:

by David Wasielewski
Contact David at

David had a stroke in 2005 ending his career as a logistics consultant. Since the stroke he returned to college for a Sociology degree. He is a peer counselor, facilitates a local stroke support group, volunteers at the local United Way and writes for The Stroke Network.
What options are available if you lose your leader either temporarily or permanently? What if your support group losses its space? David explores these issues.

I’ve written the past about having a personal backup plan for the survivor / caregiver in case the situation changes. For example: What plan is in place to care for the survivor if the caregiver gets sick? Who takes over the caregiver duties? How fast can the backup be in place in case of emergency? Each individual is responsible for creating a personal backup plan.

(Blog Editor Note: next week I will post an article written by David describing the circumstances and importance of a personal backup plan for the caregiver.)

This article urges each support group to have a backup plan for their group in case circumstances change as well. Who takes the group lead if the current leader is unable to continue? Where does the group meet if their current space suddenly becomes unavailable? How are the group members to be contacted if changes occur? How do the members contact one another?

Our group recently worked through these challenges which arose in quick succession. The changes could easily have threatened to continuation of the group. The following are some suggestions that might help other groups.

Where does the group meet if their regular space becomes unavailable? The hospital we normally meet at announced they were to start renovations and our space would be unusable for several months. We had to find a new space in short order. Several of us began a search. Fortunately, we found a space at a nearby long term care facility. The director noted our plight and volunteered their newly built chapel as a space to meet for several hours each month.

It turned out to be an opportunity for the group to explore the facility. The director arranged for a tour and we had their head therapist join us to discuss long term care options and therapeutic options and the process of choosing a long term care facility. The visit provided an opportunity for the care facility to market its care and therapy services to the community. A win- win for both parties. A discussion of options in your community might be helpful in case a new space is required for your group.

What happens when the group leader needs to step away for a time or step down permanently? Our leader recently had to step away from the group in order to deal with pressing family obligations.

While each group normally has a leader the leadership duties should at least occasionally be shared among other members. The normal facilitator should be willing to step back at times while others take the leadership role. Perhaps leading a discussion or making a presentation on a topic of interest. Test the situation occasionally in order to assure that the group and the individual are comfortable with the possible transition if called upon.

Designating an unpopular leader or one unwilling to take over leadership can make it difficult for the group to remain intact through the transition. If the leadership transition had not been considered and tried out our group could have been left leaderless and in jeopardy. Fortunately, we were prepared, and the transition has so far been successful.

How is the group to be notified as the changes occur? Several folks in the group should have a complete list of contact information for all members. This should include emails and phone numbers for all members as well as a central contact for members to call for information. Our change of location would not have been successful if the members could not be notified of where to meet. Our group has a designated a ‘communication officer’ who is responsible for sending out meeting reminders and event notifications and maintaining up to date contact lists as members come and go.

Back-up plans are important as we all know in case situations change. Planning for these emergencies and changes is important so that individual survivors are taken care of and for support groups in order to assure that they continue to meet the needs of the survivor community. Imagine these changes for your group and if your group would survive. Planning will help insure that your group survives.

Copyright ©September 2016

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

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