What are caregiver loneliness and isolation?
Isolation happens when a person does not spend time with other people enjoying themselves. Caregivers have a lot to do, and this often takes them away from their usual connections with family and friends. There are bills to pay, people to call, direct care to provide, prescriptions to pick up, and appointments to go to. You may lose track of friendships and stop having a social life because of caregiving responsibilities. This isolation can make you feel lonely, depressed, or sick. Caregivers often withdraw from previous hobbies and lifestyle activities. You may also feel that no one understands what you are going through.
What can I do about my loneliness and isolation?
Staying in contact with people other than the patient is important. These connections can promote happiness, better sleep, and better health.
Here are some tips for avoiding isolation and loneliness:
- Do a little something for yourself each day. If you can’t take an afternoon off with a friend, schedule a daily phone “date” with someone.
- Ask family members and friends to understand that even though you may be busy, you need and want them to reach out. Ask them to check in with you even if you cannot return their calls right away. Ask them to keep inviting you out even if you often have to say no.
- Engage in social interaction with family and friends.
- Invite friends, family, and church members over to visit, take a ride, go for a walk, or eat out.
- Schedule time to get in touch with others.
- Join an in-person or online support community.
- Get help with caregiving so you can get out of the house for a little while for a bit of respite.
- Stay in touch with the news and events that are going on around you.
- Do not feel guilty! Making time for others does not mean you’re short-changing the person you are caring for.
- Express your true feelings as it will lighten your load.
- Use video chat to keep in touch with people.
- Consider a companion robot.
- Do not routinely and continuously turn down invitations from others. Accept invitations to social gatherings.
- Take the time to call and catch up with those friends and family with whom you have lost touch.
- Consider attending church and other religious events. Practicing your religion and maintaining your faith may be helpful.
- If you have a hobby, do it for a little while every day.
- Rent a movie. Go to a play or concert. Go out to lunch.
- Take a walk or go to a library.
- Take a class to learn about something that interests you.
- Take care of yourself – journal – do things you enjoy.
- Accept praise for what you do.
When should I talk to my doctor about my loneliness and isolation?
Talk to your doctor if you are:
- Depressed and if it lasts more than 2 weeks
- Afraid to go out
- Feeling overwhelmed with your care role
- Overusing alcohol or other substances
- Experiencing weight loss or gain
- Hebdon, M., Badger, T. A., Segrin, C., & Pasvogel, A. (2021). Social support and healthcare utilization of caregivers of Latinas with breast cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 29(8), 4395–4404. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05983-z
- Li, L., Wister, A.V., Mitchell, B. (2020). Social isolation among spousal and adult-child caregivers: Findings from the Canadian longitudinal study on aging. Journal of Gerontology: Series B, 76(7), 1415-1429. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbaa197. Moss, K.O., Kurzawa, C., Daly, B., Prince-Paul, M. (2019). Identifying and addressing family caregiver anxiety. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 21(1), 14-20. https://doi.org/10.1097/NJH.0000000000000489.
- Pohl, J.S., Bell, J.F., Tancredi, D.J., Woods, N.F. (2022). Social isolation and health among family caregivers of older adults: Less community participation may indicate poor self-reported health. Health and Social Care Community, 30(6), e6175-e6184. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.14054.
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