Caregivers often isolate themselves too, as it becomes more and more challenging to fit in time with friends. A loved one's diagnosis of dementia means you will have to make medical, financial and even every day decisions for your loved one. This takes time away from other activities. Your loved one might need you to be with them around the clock, or to visit them several times a week, if they live in a care facility.
Isolation is not a conscious decision, it happens over time as caregivers are sandwiched in between caring for their loved one and working a full time job and/or taking care of other family members. Personal relationships suffer and it becomes difficult to have a social life for both people.
|Dementia is a disease with a|
stigma that often results
There are many causes of dementia, some types of dementia are treatable and can even be reversed to an extent. Others cannot. Alzheimer's is one dementia disease that cannot be cured and it is progressive.
The Alzheimer's Association lists Alzheimer's as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. 5.4 million Americans suffer from this disease; one in eight elderly Americans. Over 15 million caregivers now provide unpaid care that is estimated to value over $200 billion. These numbers are growing.
Complications of Isolation
Three years ago, I left my job to take care of my mom who developed Alzheimer's. She wanted to stay in her home, and I really felt that moving her to a care facility would be too disorienting and could possibly cause her to lose her will to keep going. In order to do this, I had to make many changes in my life. I no longer leave the house and work in a social environment or go to parties or get together with friends. Since mom became incontinent, it's more difficult to go to people's houses or go shopping or out to eat. It can be pretty lonely.
Here are some things that I do to keep active and to stay in touch with others;
- Invite relatives over for dinner or a movie. It's best for mom if it's 1-3 people at the most.
- Use social media to stay in contact with people who are interested in the same things I am. Caregiver support groups are a great place to start.
- Don't be afraid to reach out to friends and relatives and tell them that you are feeling isolated and sometimes need to talk. Ask if they can set aside a half hour a week just to talk, even if it's online. I was surprised to find that some of my relatives were also feeling isolated. There are many people who are lonely every day, and they may not even be caring for a sick loved one.
- If a caregiver gets hurt in the home and cannot get to the phone for help, the person with dementia will not be able to help them. If you are unconscious or bleeding and cannot help yourself, you need to know that someone will check on you each day.
- Depression and anxiety over the future can cause both of you to experience a loss of quality of life.
- You might lose your ability to see changes in your loved one's condition because you are there everyday. Another person, a neighbor or family member, who comes in once a week can pick up on something you might not have noticed.
- Caregivers can get set into a routine that is no longer working effectively, but it's difficult to see that without anyone from the outside who can look in and give an objective point of view.
|Pets are a great comfort to|
people who are lonely.
- Caregiver buddy system - find another caregiver who you can talk to.
- Reach out to community networks such as a church or non-profit who can offer respite for you and companionship for your loved one.
- Schedule regular doctor appointments so a medical professional can assess both of you and help you see signs of stress before they become overwhelming.
- Have a regular schedule of some activity where you are expected, so if you do not show up, your absence can alert others that something might be wrong.
- Have the newspaper delivered daily, even if you don't read it. Neighbors notice a pileup of newspapers
- If you notice that an elderly or ill neighbor has not gone out food shopping, collected mail or put trash out, check on the person.
Caregiver and Contributing Writer