This article first appeared on The Good Men Project and has been republished with permission.
Whether you are caretaking for an aging parent, a spouse, a sibling or a child — there are more similarities than there are differences.
All share similar stressors even if they show up in subtle different places. One of the most far-reaching stressors of care is the isolation, of which there are two types.
Isolation as you traditionally think of it.
The very nature of this role involves various degrees of care for the person. If that care involves symptoms that require actual hands-on care as well as a large degree of limitations this automatically means more time spent at home. It’s easy to think that friends and family would simply make strides in coming toward the home more. Truth is, it’s difficult for all involved to see what care can and does look like in the home. Often people believe they are interfering so they begin to trickle off from coming by.
Another example is when there is a disease — let’s say Alzheimer’s — where little or none hands-on care may be required but both environmental stimuli inside and outside the home begins to affect the behavioral needs of the loved one. Without even realizing it the caregiver begins to self isolate for what seems like a necessary good reason.
So what can you do to counteract the very real type of isolation that requires more home time?
- Be honest with those closest to you and let them know you need the break that only company can fill.
- With the world at our fingertips now, use technology for one of it’s most powerful gifts…bringing people to you in your home. Support groups, care sites, those that can relate to your situation and help you feel less alone.
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Isolation that has you feeling like you’re “on the outside looking in.”
No matter which type of caregiver you are or the disease symptoms that are showing up, this is the one that stings the most. It doesn’t take long for you to realize that your life is running differently than it used to. That most of the people you know and love do not spend endless amounts of time immersed in care issues. Dr. appointments, medicine, hands on care, juggling the life of someone you love with your own soon crowds out what you see others enjoying and taking for granted. Such as the ability to run errands, go shopping, take trips, enjoying down time. Then there’s the emotional hits that you experience. Seeing anyone experiencing milestones that up until you entered a care role thought you too would be experiencing, but not. Is a sting and painful reminder of all that you have lost.
What can help with this type of isolation?
- This requires acceptance first that yes your life has indeed changed.
- It’s dropping (as hard as it is) the comparison game, because it’s painful and will not help you navigate this care journey.
- Start finding new things, interests and hobbies that will fit into your new normal that can help you stay engaged.
- Modify instead of dropping old friends, interests and goals. Less time to do a thing doesn’t mean it has to end, you just have to be more creative.
- Find a way that works for you to process out the emotional pains, especially the grief. This will help you not get stuck in the losses.
Isolation isn’t healthy, and it happens to people who are in a caregiver role. But if you are aware of it, you can have a say in how much of it you will allow to take over.