Caregiving, by its very nature, is isolating. It takes you out of your normal routine, your normal social activities, your normal exercise circuit, often even away from your normal work. Instead, you spend increasing amounts of quality time with your loved one—and in the waiting rooms of doctors everywhere.
But the loneliness isn’t just physical. When you do talk to your friends, their concerns often seem quite irrelevant; you just can’t get worked up over what to serve at the church social or which dress Polly’s daughter wants to wear to the prom. So you start avoiding people, either consciously or unconsciously.
Your world can shrink in an instant.
And that shrinkage can cause fundamental changes in you. Loneliness is stressful. It often leads to alcohol dependence and other self-destructive behaviors. And it becomes self-reinforcing. So please be aware of this trap, and try to stave it off before it starts.
Three keys for fighting loneliness
- Find someone to talk to. Someone who understands. Caregiver support groups in person—or even online—can connect you to people who do know what you are going through. They may even have good suggestions for you.
- Get respite help. A relative. A friend. A paid caregiver. Give yourself at least a lunch or dinner or shot at exercise every week.
- Stay connected. If you can’t go out, your true friends will be happy to come over. No need to fuss; they are there for you, not the food. They might even be happy to bring dinner, then stay to eat it with you.