The 6 Best Alzheimer's Disease Support Groups of 2020

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First Look

Best Overall: The Alzheimer’s Association

"The Alzheimer’s Association offers groups for people with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers, friends, and family."

Best for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA)

"The groups aim to provide caregivers a chance to connect with others and share their stories, questions, answers, emotions, and more."

Best for Spouses: Well Spouse Association

"It offers recreational activities to give caregivers much-needed respite opportunities."

Best for Mentorship: Dementia Mentors

"Dementia Mentors also offers virtual Memory Cafes: online groups for socializing and sharing information or experiences."

Best for Activities: Memory Cafe

"Some groups aim to provide education, while others are activity-based and offer activities such as music and dancing."

Best for Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: UCSF Memory and Aging Center Clinic

"For group members to qualify, they must be in the mild or early stage of Alzheimer’s or have been diagnosed before age 65."

When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there is often a sense of confusion. Many people wonder what to do next. There may be unanswered questions and uncertainty about the future. Seeking support from others who are living with AD can help.

Many support groups offer an educational component to address the questions that people who are newly diagnosed may have. Support group members often give each other tips on how to manage the various challenges that arise. Not only can Alzheimer’s support groups provide information, but studies have shown that they can help reduce depression and improve the quality of life and self-esteem for people with AD who have mild cognitive impairment (early Alzheimer’s), as well as those in the later stages of the disease (i.e. Alzheimer’s dementia).

Finding the right support group can help people bridge the gap between the initial shock of learning they have Alzheimer’s disease, knowing what to expect, and, eventually, accepting a diagnosis so they can lead a meaningful life. But there are many variables to note during this search: Communities are offered online, in-person, and more, and each option has its own benefits and drawbacks. There is no right answer when it comes to which group is best; in the end, it’s the group that works for you that really matters.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: The Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a national nonprofit that helps organize many different types of support groups, including online and face-to-face groups that meet across the country.

The organization offers communities for people with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers, and friends and family members.Each group is facilitated by an experienced and trained moderator, such as a person who has been a caregiver for a person with AD or a professional in the field.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers an early-stage, social engagement program to help people feel comfortable about meeting and interacting with people. The group engages in activities such as bowling, baseball games, and more.

Participants of the early-stage social engagement groups are encouraged to speak on the phone; they can chat with someone who is also living with AD confidentially, connect with others who can answer their questions, and provide encouragement and inspiration.

The Alzheimer’s Association's support groups are all free of charge, and some are offered in different languages. The online program includes a message board (where members share information such as practical tips), and there are even private online communities organized by topic. Local chapters can be found by using the site's online search tool.

Best for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA)

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Alzheimer’s caregivers often find it difficult to attend in-person support group meetings due to their busy caregiving obligations. Knowing this, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) offers free, telephone-based support meetings on a weekly basis.

The AFA offers professionally facilitated groups run by licensed social workers, allowing caregivers a chance to connect with others and share their stories, questions, answers, emotions, and more. The sessions are scheduled at various times during the week and cover general caregiver support, family interactions, and conflict resolution. There are also options for caregivers to speak with each other one on one.

Register for a free caregiver support group by calling the organization's toll-free helpline. A social worker is available on weekdays and weekends to help with enrollment or answer any questions.

Best for Spouses: Well Spouse Association

Well Spouse Association

Well Spouse Association

The Well Spouse Association offers free nationwide support groups for spouses and partners of people who have long-term illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. This program offers support to the wives, husbands, and partners of chronically ill or disabled people.

The nonprofit coordinates a national network of support groups and does everything from facilitating a mentor program to publishing a newsletter to keep people informed. Its website offers resources for coping and survival skills, which includes a chat forum for spousal caregivers.

The Well Spouse Association also provides continuing support for members whose spouses have died, advocates on behalf of caregivers, and is always looking for new tools to help caregiver spouses and their families cope with the emotional and financial stresses associated with chronic illness and/or disability.

The service offers recreational activities to give group participants much-needed respite opportunities because breaks are important for caregivers. There are respite weekend activities, but the fee varies, depending on the location.

In-person support groups are offered by state, while telephone-based support is also offered.

Best for Mentorship: Dementia Mentors

Dementia Mentors

Dementia Mentors

Many support groups are structured for those in the early stages of the disease because that’s when people usually function at their highest level. But there is an online support group offered nationwide that includes those battling Alzheimer's dementia, a late stage of the condition.

Co-founded by Gary Joseph LeBlanc, who was a dementia caregiver for both of his parents for two decades, Dementia Mentors provides a platform for people living with dementia of all types, including Alzheimer’s disease. Support is offered via educational videos that chronicle what it’s like to live with dementia.

Perhaps the most valuable tool the website offers is its free mentorship program for people with the disease. The mentors are all volunteers who have dementia themselves.

To request a mentoring session, users will need to fill out an online form about the dementia-related illness they have and where they live. Next, Dementia Mentors will match them with a mentor who also has Alzheimer’s disease, and send a link that will open an online video chat window.

Dementia Mentors also offers virtual Memory Cafes, which are online groups for socializing and sharing information or experiences. Five to six of these cafes are hosted by a mentor every week.

Group members and participants are free to discuss their Alzheimer’s disease battle, ask questions, give each other tips, and share stories. The primary goal of the organization is to simply provide a way for people living with dementia to make social connections and support one another.

All services offered by Dementia Mentors are free.

Best for Activities: Memory Cafe

Memory Cafe

The Memory Café 

The idea of a Memory Cafe began in 1997 in the Netherlands when a Dutch psychiatrist wanted to help shatter the stigma associated with dementia. But as the idea spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world, it evolved into a place where people with memory problems of all sorts (not just from dementia) could be addressed.

One common memory problem associated with Alzheimer’s disease is called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which involves memory problems that are not yet so severe that they interfere with daily life. It is a stage of cognitive decline that is worse than normal aging, but not yet as severe as Alzheimer’s dementia.

Each Memory Cafe has a different focus and format. Some aim to provide education, while others are activity-based, offering group activities such as music, dance, and art. There are even communities that offer guided forums for brain exercises that help improve memory by encouraging reminiscence. In addition, Memory Cafes provide a place for mutual support and social interaction.

Not only do people with dementia or MCI (and other memory problems) benefit from Memory Cafes, but caregivers can participate in the activities as well. It’s a great way to socialize, find enjoyment, and add group interaction into a routine.

Memory Cafes can be offered as an online group activity (via some sort of video chat platform such as Zoom) or as in-person meetings that often add some perks like potlucks or art projects. Check the website for the various meeting offerings.

Best for Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: UCSF Memory and Aging Center Clinic

UCSF Memory and Aging Center Clinic

UCSF Memory and Aging Center Clinic

Younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease) is a rare form of the illness.It involves a type of dementia that impacts people under the age of 65.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, approximately up to 5% of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) develop symptoms before age 65. This indicates that approximately 250,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the younger-onset form of AD. Because younger-onset AD is considered rare, there are not many resources (including support groups) that are specifically for younger people with AD and their family members. 

If you live in the San Francisco area, however, there’s a local community sponsored by the UCSF Memory and Aging Center Clinic. It was created specifically for those who have been diagnosed with young-onset AD and their caregiver or spouse/significant other. For group members to qualify, they must: be in the mild or early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, have been diagnosed before age 65, or have a significant other or caregiver who will participate in the group.

It is free to join and participate in, meets bi-monthly, and offers education on Alzheimer’s disease and new research developments. The community aims to provide support and validation for the struggles the families are going through, while also teaching coping skills and discussing emotional challenges.

How We Chose the Best Alzheimer’s Disease Support Groups

The Alzheimer’s disease support groups on this list were selected according to many factors, including the diversity of meeting types, as well as meeting places offered, mentorship, social activities, and more. Services that featured activities and groups like Memory Cafes stood out for their unique approach to connecting people with Alzheimer's disease.

The best overall group, The Alzheimer’s Association, was selected because of its diversity in support group offerings and the number of meetings available across the country. In addition to those battling Alzheimer's disease, the service stood out for its communities offered for caregivers, friends, and family members.

What Are Alzheimer’s Disease Support Groups?

Alzheimer’s support groups are meetings that occur either online, via live video chat platforms (such as Zoom), or in-person at various locations around the country. They are aimed at providing a place for people to share experiences, get and give important information, and become educated about Alzheimer’s disease while interacting with others.

Is an Alzheimer’s Disease Support Group Right for Me?

Everyone is different. Some people are very comfortable sharing openly with others in a group setting, while others may feel a lot of anxiety around the idea.

If a group setting is not something that helps you, perhaps you could try a one-on-one supportive environment (something offered by Dementia Mentors), or chat webinars that offer an opportunity to watch and listen to others with AD. If a group that is facilitated by a layperson is not structured enough, a professionally led support group, such as those offered by a licensed mental health professional, counselor, or a therapist, might be ideal. Be sure to talk to a healthcare and insurance provider to explore options and coverage.

How Are Alzheimer’s Disease Support Groups Structured?

The groups may be structured differently, depending on the type of services offered. For instance, communities with an emphasis on social interactions and activities will be different than those that are mentorship-focused. A group moderated by a medical professional will likely be more formal than one that is run by a layperson. And, of course, an in-person meeting will provide a face-to-face interaction that an online forum doesn't have.

In general, most groups are opened by a moderator or facilitator who will give members an opportunity to introduce themselves and then offer time for each group member to share. Group members are invited to share their feelings and experiences with others in an open, accepting, and non-judgmental environment. However, no one is forced to interact. For some, it’s more therapeutic to just listen, and that’s OK, too.

How Much Do Alzheimer's Disease Support Groups Cost?

All the support groups on this list are free.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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