Coping with Caregiver Isolation & Taking Steps Toward Self-Care

Coping with Caregiver Isolation & Taking Steps Toward Self-Care

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15.9 million family members and friends provided unpaid care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias in the last year. The majority (just under 75%) claimed to be concerned about maintaining their own health while they dedicate their time and attention to caring for their loved one. That translates into about 12 million people putting their own well-being on hold while they cope with the emotional and physical burdens that come with caregiving – and those are only the numbers for Alzheimer’s disease. 

“While caring for an older loved one who needs daily assistance, whether due to Alzheimer’s disease, other cognitive illnesses such as Parkinson’s, a chronic illness or a lack of mobility, can often be a rewarding endeavor, caregiving also takes a severe toll on one’s mental and physical health,” notes Polly West, Executive Director at Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods, a senior living community in Nicholasville, KY. “Among the families we’ve known, we notice that many of the health problems caregivers face stem from the subtle effects of isolation.”

Isolation – At the Bottom of a Slippery Slope 

As the caregiver, it’s not always easy to recognize that you’re experiencing social isolation. In the beginning, after a diagnosis, surgery or accident, when your main focus is on taking care of your loved one, declining invites or social outings seem like small sacrifices to make. However, after months or years of putting your loved one’s needs before your own, social isolation begins to take its toll. 

Isolation isn’t the only struggle caregivers contend with. Even when they try to take care of their own health, they can’t always avoid the stress and exhaustion that inevitably comes with their role. More specifically, family caregivers commonly experience: 

  • Decreased physical health due to exhaustion, sleep deprivation, inability to rest and recover from illness or not taking time to go to the doctor
  • Challenges with anxiety and stress
  • Caregiver burnout from trying to manage a loved one’s care, work and family
  • Poor mental health, which often leads (if not cared for) to depression

In many cases, caregivers experience most, if not all, of these conditions at some point throughout their caregiving journey, and it’s difficult to know if one caused another or how to get out a bad cycle of poor self-care. Any of the effects listed above are enough to overwhelm us. Looking at the big picture of a caregiver’s total well-being can often help in taking steps toward better health and wellness. 

Time to Take Care of Yourself

According to Barry J. Jacobs, PsyD, clinical psychologist, family therapist and author of the book, The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent, there are many factors that can lead to a caregiver’s isolation. He lists a few in “Staying Connected to Friends While Caregiving,” an article he wrote for AARP. “Caregivers,” Jacobs says, “may become so consumed with caregiver duties, tightly organizing each day around those tasks, that they stop nurturing other relationships and neglect their own enjoyment. Guilt about going out socially may keep them cloistered at home, rather than seeing socializing as a source of necessary replenishment.” 

Isolation may also occur at no fault of the caregiver’s, as friends and neighbors may shy away from the loved one’s situation. However caregiver isolation came to be, it’s important for the caregiver to find ways to cope and make the time to be around others who will help them care for their own health and spirit.

Jacobs lists four considerations for caregivers, both those who are seeking help out of isolation and those who want to prevent isolation from happening in the first place. He suggests: 

  1. Believe in Social Sustenance – It’s not enough to just know that being social is important. Caregivers need to actually believe that it is beneficial to their well-being, seeing spending time with friends not as a guilt-ridden luxury but as a vital key to their health and happiness.
  2. Protect Your Slotted Social Time – Caregivers will always have reasons to cancel their social plans but Jacobs suggests scheduling some social activity (or healthy “me-time”) at least once a week and won’t cancel for anything short of an emergency. Having regular social engagement that’s just for you can help you feel more in control of your life and ward off depression.
  3. Choose Understanding Companions – Invest in spending time with people who truly understand what you’re going through. It’s rarely uplifting to be around “false friends” who criticize your actions or can’t comprehend your situation. Caregiver support groups are great sources for support and understanding.
  4. Appreciate Short, Sweet Breaks – It’s healthy to acknowledge that little bits of respite from caregiving can be just as beneficial as a whole afternoon to yourself. Breaking up your day with phone calls or humorous text messages can act as great reminders that others value and care about you and that – even when you feel like it – you’re not alone.

A Friend You Can Turn to for Support

“If you’re currently struggling with the demands of caring for a loved one, Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods can be a valuable resource for both of you,” shares West. “Our community not only hosts educational events on caregiving techniques and social events for the whole family but our team of specially-trained staff is always happy to help answer your caregiving questions and concerns. We also offer adult day care and respite services for when you need a longer break. 

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one as you go through your caregiving journey, contact us today!”

Live Life to the Fullest at Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods

Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods is a Christian Care Community offering assisted senior care, memory care and adult day services. Located in Brannon Crossing, one of central Kentucky’s most desirable areas, Bridgepointe was designed to help families grow closer as they grow older.

At Bridgepointe, residents enjoy the privacy and dignity of living in their own apartment as well as the peace of mind that comes from the support and assistance of a special team of caregivers. In short, we help our residents live life to its fullest.

Our community is designed to promote activity, interaction, socialization and enjoyment. We offer a variety of engaging activities daily, from yoga and tai chi to gardening and arts and crafts. At Bridgepointe, there’s never a dull moment and always something to do!

Discover a rich and fulfilling lifestyle combined with personalized care and support delivered by a team of experienced professionals … all within a secure, elegantly appointed community.

We invite you to visit today and discover how Bridgepointe at Ashgrove Woods can change your life for the better

To learn more, contact us today!