3 Great Ways to Manage Caregiver Isolation
I believe caregivers are warriors. They are like angels walking on earth fighting for those around them who need to be protected, cared for and heard.
Strong, committed and dedicated, caregivers all over the world show up and selfishly put the needs of others before their own and champion for those who can’t do it for themselves.
This extraordinary act of selflessness and concern for others saves the world on a daily basis. It also predisposes most caregivers to think about others first and themselves last.
Constant Concern for Others’ Wellbeing
Caregivers become so wrapped up in concern for others, that their lives can be put on hold. Socializing takes a back seat, and without even realizing it, they become lone rangers – or as I like to call myself, a lone cowgirl – because it’s faster and easier.
Without much thought, caregivers begin to isolate for the world outside, thinking they can and should do it all by themselves. While understandable and well-intended, this creates a very dangerous path for caregivers to walk, leading to burnout and isolation.
It amazes me that caregivers – who are in my opinion the kindest, most caring people in the world – can be so hard on themselves and end up feeling alone, scared and crazy, conditions they would never tolerate for someone else!
I experienced a feeling of isolation when I began taking care of my parents and ended up feeling lost, scared and alone. Luckily, I felt so out of sorts and missed my old life so much, I began to work at finding some sort of balance.
I knew in my heart my parents would never want me to feel so alone, so I began to find ways to socialize and reach out.
The following three ‘states of being’ helped me overcome the feeling that I could do it all myself, that I couldn’t ever leave my parents and that I was a bad daughter if I socialized and had some fun. They helped me overcome isolation and the feeling my life was on hold.
Being aware of how you are feeling is at the root of it. Do you feel lonely and overwhelmed? Are you turning down invitations to socialize and not finding time for family and friends?
Do you feel like you don’t have time for anything or anybody but those you care for? Lastly, do you feel guilty for even thinking about taking time for yourself?
By becoming and staying aware of these feelings, we begin to understand that we are not right-sized about our role, our responsibilities or how we need to nurture ourselves.
We are not allowing ourselves the connections and social experiences everyone needs to survive. We are not super people, and no one expects us to suffer while caring for others. We are entitled to respite, social interaction, guilt-free self-love and care.
Reach out! Let family and friends know you could use some help, some down time, phone calls and support.
Tell them you appreciate them checking in on a consistent basis and share what you need help with, especially when people can spot you, so you can have some ‘me’ time. Make a calendar with the actual times and dates they will commit to.
Also, tell them you want to be included and invited to events and activities. You may not always be able but will try to join in.
Then see if there are caregiver groups in your community and sign up. Talking things over with other caregivers stops isolation in its tracks and provides invaluable relief.
It’s all about balance. Finding the balance between devotion for the care of others and the absolute need for self-care is a constant challenge.
The scale understandably seems to tip in the favor of a commitment to the well-being of those we love who need us. Caregivers are selfless. Yet no one can survive and even thrive without concern and consideration for their own well-being.
To flourish you have to nourish. Once you become aware and accept the fact that you are entitled to the same care, love and support you provide for your loved ones, it will be easier to spot when you are emotionally bankrupt and isolating.
Balance comes when we are aware of and open to everyone’s needs, including our own. Strive for a balance of their time and your time. It isn’t wrong to take time for yourself. Balance is about everyone feeling fulfilled and supported.
Remember to check in with trusted family and friends in addition to the voice in your head and heart. Surround yourself with support and community.
Staying involved with the world around you will keep you healthier, happier, stronger and more resilient. Be aware, proactive and balanced and know you are not alone.
If you are a caregiver, have you found yourself isolating? How did you cope and overcome isolation? Please take some time and give us helpful tips that were crucial in your caregiver journey.
Susanne White is the founder of Caregiver Warrior. She was blessed with the opportunity to care for her parents and ventured out on a journey that would change her life. She blogs about this journey on her website and shares her experience, strength and hope with others so that they too may survive caregiving with grace and empowerment. Follow her on Twitter @CaregiveWarrior and on Linkedin.