Caregiver isolation comes on gradually. It often begins as a simple decision to skip a usual outing. Then it’s two weeks, then a month — and soon, it’s difficult to get away even to run a small errand.
As an older adult’s dependence on you increases, you may find yourself leaving the house less and less. Your dedication to caring for your loved one may overshadow aspects of your life that are important to your own emotional health, which, in turn, can take a serious emotional toll. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 91 percent of caregivers say they are concerned about their own mental and emotional health; many of these caregivers report feelings of isolation and loneliness due to their duties at home.
Luckily, isolation may be easier to combat than you might think. With a healthy amount of support and a strong social life, you can help stave off depression and be at your best in everything you do. Caregiver support can be found in a number of forms and in places you probably hadn’t considered. Here are four things you can try to help build up your support system and keep you connected.
1. Ask for Help
It’s hard to ask for help. But while people often want to reach out and support their caregiving loved ones, they aren’t always sure where to start. Asking others to help with specific tasks can free up some of your time — in addition, it enables those people to be helpful and feel connected to you. Having trusted helpers around the house gives you the chance to interact, and they can help you make quick work of things that may otherwise have taken all day. If you don’t have family nearby, consider asking friends, neighbors, or members of any groups you participate in.
2. Keep in Touch
Caregiving can quickly demand all of your time, and friendships often get neglected as a result. By scheduling time to reach out to friends on a regular basis, you can not only maintain friendships, but also build a strong support network. Make weekly calls, or send e-mails to friends and loved ones so you can stay connected.
3. Join a Support Group
When you feel like you are the only person in the world who feels like you do, it can be life-changing to find a room full of people who understand. While face-to-face caregiver support groups are ideal, there are a host of online support groups that allow you to talk with other caregivers over the Internet 24 hours a day. These groups are great for caregivers who have homebound loved ones and little other support.
4. Continue Your Hobbies Using Respite Care
While respite care is often provided by family or friends, many faith-based groups offer similar services. Schedule respite care regularly to ensure you get to attend your favorite aerobics class or lunch dates with friends. If it’s feasible, consider adult day care one or more days a week. Such programs work to help disabled seniors remain independent longer while giving their loved ones a chance to focus on their own needs.
Caregiver isolation can make you feel like you’re facing the emotional challenges of being a caregiver alone. Finding the right caregiver support can offer peace of mind that you are taking care of your own emotional health, as well as the health of your senior loved one.
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