Are You a Lonely Caregiver? Creating Your Circle of Care
You used to be the life of the party. You had a career and lots of friends. Your phone rang constantly.
Lately, you don’t recognize yourself anymore. For some, caregiving an elder parent or spouse can cause your vibrant life to grow smaller. You don’t mean it to happen, but the routine of meds and doctor appointments leaves little energy for lunch dates with friends–and weekend road trips seem like long ago sweet memories. You know what you do is important, even necessary, but you didn’t know you’d feel so alone.
You’re not alone. In fact, you’re a part of the more than 65 million
Americans providing 20 hours (or more-each week) of caregiving for an aging, chronically ill or disabled loved one (Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009)
I remember one day when I was caring for my mom (she had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) and my husband was at home with my mom while I ran out to do a few errands and the beauty of the day caught my breath. I noticed everything–new moms pushing strollers, a man walking two pug puppies, lawn care workers and people zipping in and out of driveways. I felt like I had landed on an alien planet. Is this what people get to do? Come and go as they please? I couldn’t leave unless I called in the National Guard, at least that’s what it felt like. I felt an potent and toxic emotional cocktail of envy and resentment. Not pretty.
I knew something had to change. It wasn’t healthy for me to be so isolated. I told myself I didn’t want people to see my mom the way she was. I knew I was exhausted, fussy, and impatient–who wants to be around someone like that? But deep down I missed my peers. I missed just being one of the girls. I was committed to my mother’s care, but I longed for friendship and connection. I started making a few calls to old friends, emailed more often, sent funny cards, waved to neighbors and even initiated conversations. I also started checking into senior community services in our area–even though my mother didn’t want to, I needed her to. Both of us needed this.
Creating a Caregiver’s Circle showed me that I really did need support and encouragement. Every caregiver needs a caregiver–someone who’s got your back–someone who will be honest with you and won’t allow you to go too long without asking, “where ya been?” It took some effort to begin to reach out but it was worth it. I decided to honest about where I was–good day or not so good day. I found that others began to open up about what was going on in their life when I decided to be vulnerable first.
So look around. Find a caregiving buddy. They’re at your church, your grocery story, your home health-aide store, and even in your neighborhood. Strike up a conversation. Exchange phone numbers or emails. Be the one to pick up the phone and call-vent, laugh, or ask for help. Check your local resources for a caregiver support group or workshop. Who else understands what I’m going through as much as another caregiver?
Carol’s Caregiver Corner is just such a place. We hope you’ll return again and again–for tips, suggestions–a safe place to vent, to laugh, to ask question.and to remember.