The Importance of Support Groups for Chronic Medical Conditions

An unexpected medical diagnosis such as cancer, liver disease or depression can have a dramatic impact on your life. Hearing a diagnosis can send you into shock. Your doctors talk, yet you may be unable to understand their words and their implications. With COVID-19 protocols, you may be alone, without someone who can remind you what your doctors said. Where do you turn?

Support groups for chronic conditions have been a big help to many patients. According to the study “The Role of Self-Help Groups in Chronic Illness Management” published in Australian Journal of Primary Health, self-help groups provide many benefits. These include the following.

Social and emotional support. After a medical diagnosis, you may not know anyone with that condition. In a support group, you’ll step into a group of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.

Medical expertise. You may not understand the treatments your doctor recommends. Support group members can help explain the treatment and what to expect. Many support groups have nurses or doctors who oversee the groups, providing expertise as well.

Improved quality of life. Studies found that patients in support groups feel a greater sense of self-confidence and control as they manage their illnesses.

Sometimes our caregivers and family lose patience. Serious illnesses can cause depression, and medications can cause illogical behaviors. Caregivers can find support groups helpful too as they navigate their role in your care.

That medical model with the patient as a passive recipient of information is no longer valid. Most patients want to understand their options to make informed treatment choices. A support group can provide vital information to help those with chronic conditions take a more active role in their treatment. Your treating facility may host a support group for your illness. A Google search will reveal more. Many people meet virtually or offer social media groups if you’re unable to attend in person.