Many caregivers are much more lonely, isolated, or disconnected than we realize. This is caused by a withdrawal from their previous routines, lifestyles, and social activities in order to focus on their family member or other care recipient.
Often, caregivers feel like they cannot set aside their caregiving responsibilities to connect with their friends as they used to. This is particularly the case for family caregivers such as a spouse or a daughter. This can lead to loneliness and depression.
DID YOU KNOW?
• There are approximately 40 million family caregivers in the Unites States, and between 40% to 70% of them exhibit symptoms of depression.
• Individuals who are isolated are 64% more likely to develop dementia.
• A lack of social connection is as hurtful to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
SPOTTING THE SIGNS OF LONELINESS
It’s important to be on the lookout for social isolation in caregivers. Here are some things to consider:
• Have they stopped their usual social activities and routines?
• Do they seem to have dropped all other responsibilities outside of caregiving?
• Do you see them outside of their home often?
• Do they complain that their other family members not helping enough?
• Are they always tired or worried?
• Do they have a chronic health condition such as depression, failing memory, or hearing loss?
REACHING OUT TO CAREGIVERS
Often, we get too caught up in our lives to make an effort reach out to our friends & family members who are caregivers.
What can make things worse is that caregivers who feel most isolated struggle with reaching out in the first place. Sometimes, they don’t want to be perceived as a burden. But if they feel like others don’t seek them, they can withdraw even further. That’s why it’s up to us to reach out to them.
Make it a practice to reach out to others throughout the year. It benefits the people we connect with — and us as well.
SELF-CARE STRATEGIES FOR CAREGIVERS
Social connection is essential for everyone – caregivers included. It is important for caregivers to look for or create opportunities for temporary respite from their duties in order to foster their connections to others. These are some wellness strategies for caregivers:
• Respite care: Periods of respite care can allow a caregiver to focus on their own personal needs without worrying about the safety of their care recipient. Respite services are typically available from home care agencies, or via local programs, such as the local Area Agency on Aging. However, caregivers may also find that friends and family are able to assist them in caregiving duties from time to time, allowing them the time to focus on their own well-being.
Ventura County Area Agency on Aging: (805) 477-7300, or visit: www.vcaaa.org.
• Joining a caregiver support group: Local support groups or online support forums may help caregivers find common ground with other caregivers in similar situations and offer a feeling of community in the midst of their isolation.
• Reconnecting with their interests: Caregivers can use the time that they do have for themselves, and to participate in activities that make them feel renewed. Involvement in their own interests may help caregivers feel connected to their sense of self and help keep them in touch with friends and loved ones.
• Talking to a therapist: Sometimes caregivers need more specialized support than a caregiver group can give, especially if they are experiencing depression or anxiety. Professional counselors are excellent resources who can help them better manage their caregiver role.