You’re interested in starting a Parkinson’s disease (PD) support group in your area or virtually, but where do you begin? Here are six tips for starting a Parkinson’s support group, from the new Parkinson’s Foundation Support Group Leader Guide.
1. Decide who the group is for.
Are you creating a group for care partners or people with Parkinson’s? Is the group targeted to a specific PD population, such as those newly diagnosed or those with Young Onset PD? It is important to identify your target group.
2. Choose where your group will take place.
Will you meet in person or virtually? If you are meeting virtually, are you comfortable enough with the technology to host the meetings digitally? If you are meeting in-person, do you have a meeting space available that is free of cost, or do you have funding available for a paid meeting space? Reach out to folks in your community to see if spaces are available, such as the local YMCA or a public library.
3. Share responsibilities.
While it is possible to run a support group alone, it is always easier to share the responsibility! Ask potential attendees if they would volunteer to manage group duties. Some great tasks include organizing a phone tree or email list, preparing chairs and coffee before meetings, helping set up Zoom meetings or securing guest speakers.
4. Create a plan.
Will you meet monthly? Will meetings last one hour? Will your group consist of a lineup of educational speakers, or will it be a time to just talk with one another? An example of a meeting plan is to have a Parkinson’s Foundation Aware in Care Ambassador speak to the group and follow it up with a discussion. Whatever you choose, it is important to let your group members know the format so they can know what to expect.
5. Advertise your group!
Creating a simple flyer and posting on community boards can be an easy and inexpensive way to spread the word about your Parkinson’s support group. Ask your or your loved one’s health professionals if they would hang a flyer in their office. Social media is another effective way to let others know you are starting a group — start a Facebook Group and post to other local Parkinson’s Facebook groups.
6. Go with the flow!
You’ve done all the hard work to create the group — now get to know your group members. Remember to ask for feedback so you can make the group as successful for the members as possible.
For more support group information and resources, please visit Parkinson.org/SupportGroups.