October 1, 2015
Think back to what your life looked like before you became a caregiver. Have you had to give up personal activities since you started taking care of a loved one?
- Attending children’s school athletic events, plays and musical performances?
- Participating in neighborhood block parties and barbecues?
- Church events and outings?
- Impromptu Saturday lunches and shopping excursions with girlfriends?
- Dining out with other couples—or inviting other couples for dinner at your place?
The truth is, you may have sacrificed more than you realize to care for a loved one. If you’re like most family caregivers, you may have become isolated by giving up most (if not all) of your social life.
In a recent survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, 74 percent of surveyed family caregivers caring for an individual with a dementia illness said they and their loved ones had become more isolated as a result of the disease. This withdrawal from social activities can cause depression, anxiety, exhaustion and a host of other negative effects.
Caregiver isolation can occur due to a variety of reasons, including:
- Not recognizing the signs of social isolation and taking action to avoid them
- Lack of family support with caregiving
- Feeling guilty about asking for caregiving help
- Difficulty taking a loved one with Alzheimer’s out in public
- Fear of the unpredictable behaviors that can occur in a person with a dementia illness, such as verbal outbursts
5 Tips to Overcome Caregiver Isolation
If caregiving has taken over your life to the point where you rarely go out alone or with friends anymore, take heart. You can reclaim parts of your pre-caregiving life and avoid the downward spiral of isolation with these tips.
1. Recognize the signs of caregiver social isolation
Do you routinely turn down invitations for social events? Worse, have the invitations stopped coming because your friends already know you won’t take part due to your caregiving responsibilities? Take a good look at your lifestyle. If you rarely or never participate in social functions anymore, you have become too isolated. Recognizing the problem is the first step toward solving it.
2. Rely on the perception of friends
It is easy to become so wrapped up in caregiving that you are not able to recognize the signs of isolation for yourself. Poll your friends for honest feedback about whether or not you’ve become too withdrawn. If your friends feel you have become isolated, hear what they say and take action to re-engage.
3. Ask for caregiving help from family and friends
Don’t be afraid to state your needs to family members and friends. It is OK to say, “I need to get out of the house for a while this weekend. Can you sit with Mom for the afternoon?” Even better, set up a schedule for others to regularly take over caregiving duties so you can get out and socialize. It will help you feel refreshed and better able to care for your loved one when you routinely spend time with other people.
4. Don’t feel guilty about obtaining respite care
It’s tough to give your best self to your loved one if you feel overwhelmed or depressed due to caregiver isolation. When family members or friends can’t or won’t help with caregiving, look for alternative ways to get out of the house. Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers™ can provide a variety of care services and personal interaction with your loved one while you take some well-earned time off.
5. Seek out Alzheimer’s friendly businesses
Remember that isolation can be bad for your loved one, too. To help you both get out of the house more often, look for the Alzheimer’s Friendly BusinessSM seal at your local restaurants and retail shops. These businesses have completed a training program that equips their staff members to better serve people with a dementia illness and their caregivers. Learn more about the Alzheimer’s Friendly Business program.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia illness can be rewarding but time-consuming. You might reasonably expect to cut back on your social life a little bit when you become a caregiver, but if you stop socializing entirely you could be at risk for isolation—and all the negative effects that can bring. Remember to periodically take time away from caregiving to in an effort to ward off social isolation. It can help you to be a better caregiver for your loved one.
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