Being a caregiver can contribute to social isolation. The sheer amount of time needed to tend to loved ones can take up most, if not all, of our free time. This is especially true when we are working full-time and taking care of our own, immediate families. It is no wonder that we then often withdraw from previous social habits and lifestyles. This can be further compounded by the lack of a support system.
The impact of caregiver loneliness is far-reaching. There may be emotional consequences that can lead to depression, but there may also be subtle physical impacts that significantly affect our own health. For example, some caregivers who admit feeling lonely have also reported weight gain and increased blood pressure. This is likely the result of increased stress and isolation. We will not all feel or display the same signs of caregiver stress, but most of us will be negatively impacted to some degree.
It is critical to know that we are not alone. As our society gets older, the number of caregivers will continue to rise. As our loved ones age and lose their autonomy, it is of the utmost importance that we get support. Support can come in many forms such as family, friends, services, and technology. It can also come from other caregivers.
Many caregiver associations exist across Canada. Associations like Carers Canada, The Caregiver Network, L’Appui, or RANQ provide educational services and support group meetings to help us connect with others in similar situations. They also often offer discussion boards and forums where we can tell our story, support one another, and exchange tips and ideas.
Family and friends also provide vital social support for caregivers. This can take the form of a simple conversation over the phone, or an organized weekly visit. Other options, such as organized respite, can provide us some time to stay involved with our social network.
Overall, caregiving is an important, rewarding and a noble act of love. However, it is also crucial to keep a sense of self, despite the selfless nature of caregiving. Remember, you are not alone and there is support available for you.