Caregiving for a senior loved one can be rewarding role. Providing daily assistance to someone who took care of you as a child can give you an opportunity to reconnect and build memories. The downside is it can also be lonely, especially if the older adult can't be left alone or has mobility challenges that make it tough for them to leave the house.
Family caregivers often end up isolated and alone. Many times, they don't even realize it is happening. Withdrawal from friends and social activities happens gradually.
The caregiver may start giving up one or two social activities they've always enjoyed. Then, outings with friends happen less frequently. One day, the caregiver realizes just how isolated and alone they've become.
Why Do Caregivers Become Isolated?
Family caregivers become isolated for a variety of reasons. Two of the most common ones are:
Sense of duty: Adult children and spouses may believe no one can take care of their loved one as well as they do. When friends and family members do offer to help, a caregiver often declines. Eventually, the offers stop coming.
Unaware of resources: Some caregivers are unaware of local senior care resources that provide backup support and relief. Respite care, for example, is a short-term solution designed to give family caregivers a break. It can be in the form of a short-term stay at an assisted living community or a visit from an in-home caregiver.
Whatever the reason, isolation and a lack of support can lead to a weary, stressed-out caregiver.
Finding Balance When You Are a Family Caregiver
When you are struggling, it might feel impossible to find balance between caregiving and maintaining a life of your own. Here are a few suggestions you may find helpful:
Explore local resources: You are likely to find a variety of caregiver resources nearby. Your church or synagogue, for example, may have a friendly visitor program with volunteers who call on homebound seniors. The local agency on aging is another place to call. They typically work with a variety of resources, such as respite care programs, adult day centers, and transportation services. Many are reasonably priced.
Connect with a support group: Talking with fellow caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles may help decrease loneliness and anxiety. It might also encourage you to ask for help caring for your loved one. Some caregivers find an online support group an easier way to connect. The Family Caregiver Alliance has a variety of online support groups to investigate and consider.
Reach out to friends and family: Reconnecting with old friends and social groups is important. If it feels a little awkward at first, explain the situation you've been in. Let them know you have missed them. Then make time for an in-person meeting even if it's just for a cup of coffee. Moving forward, take advantage of social media platforms and video chat services, such as Skype, to stay in touch when the days are too busy to get away.
We have more resources designed to offer family caregivers the education and tools they need. Our 'Caregiver Support' page addresses topics ranging from senior care expenses to tackling tough conversations with an elder. We also invite you to call the Sunrise Senior Living community nearest you to learn more about respite care, assisted living, or memory care.