An unexpected side effect of caregiving is feeling isolated. Not only is that hard on your psyche, it’s hard on your body, too. Discover how important reaching out can be, and why it’s more doable than you might think.
Isolation and Your Health
62 percent of caregivers say they have to make choices between giving care and spending time with friends. Some researchers argue that it’s as bad as smoking or obesity. Many studies link social disconnectedness to an increased risk of infection, depression, cognitive decline, sickness and death.
Friends Can Help Maintain an Identity Outside of Caregiving Role
Often, caregivers don’t realize they’re losing touch with their support networks. They are so overwhelmed with daily tasks, they lose the bigger picture. This can lead to loss of friends, a strain at work and stresses in marriage and relationships. Not only do experts recommend carving out time to stay socially engaged, they say it’s also critical to be able to share what you’re going through. Venting, or just talking about something else besides caregiving can help maintain a sense of identity outside of that role that is important for mental health. Along with making a conscious effort to allow for “Me Time”, many benefit from formal support groups with other caregivers. There is something very powerful about being with others who understand what you’re going through.
Finding that balance can be difficult; however, when you do, it’s great.
How to Talk to Others About Your Loved One’s Illness
When it comes to bringing up illness or death, people are often concerned about how others will react- but letting others know can be a big relief. Consider these tips as ways to get the conversation rolling.
- Be honest about what’s going on with people who care about you. If the issue is dementia, they be more comfortable around it if they have the opportunity to learn about it.
- Express how this is affecting you as the caregiver, not just how the disease or situation affects the person who has it.
- Telling others is an opportunity to ask for support. Friends and family – not all, but many – will want to help. Be courageous in asking for help; take them up on their offers and let them know that even texting you with a funny or thoughtful comment can be a real boost.
- Expect different reactions from different people. It may take a while for others to absorb and respond to the news. And remember that the more you and other caregivers talk about what’s going on, the easier it will be for friends to discuss it in a helpful way.