Only the Lonely…

Loneliness is a frequent symptom of caregiving. I hear it from my clients and I find it in the literature. While I appreciate that loneliness is a pervasive feeling in much of the larger society as well, for caregivers it is often accompanied by a sense of having been abandoned. Loneliness grows from a number of sources and as those accumulate, the sense of being left entirely alone also gets larger. What leads to the loneliness caregivers feel? Here’s just a few causes:
  • A sense of having a busy schedule, filled with chores and obligations to their care-recipient.
  • Self-constructed expectations to always be available to that one person in their life.
  • Taking on new chores as the care-recipient loses the capacity to do things for themself.
  • Turning down the after-work social hour because of the belief that they must get home, right after their workday ends.
  • Declining invitations to the distant family reunion or even local holiday or birthday celebrations because they just can’t find a way to participate and cover their every-day caregiving chores.
  • Staying home rather than attending the neighborhood bar-b-que or other social events because they believe the needs of their care-recipient must come first.
All these decisions and assumptions cause the caregiver to lose touch with those everyday activities that keep us connected with our larger community, our friends and family. As a result, loneliness sets in.

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

Photo of a woman smiling while seated at a table surrounded by people.
Sometimes the loneliness is compounded because the caregiver is simply spending too much time with the one person they tend to each day – they may be with that person for hours on end each day – they may even live with the person who needs their time and attention (40% of caregivers do*).

 

This leads to the sense that there is no escape from the constant work of looking after someone else’s needs. And this sense of loneliness can be a significant component in the erosion of the caregiver’s mental and emotional health. It can lead to feelings of isolation and sadness.

 

So, you’ve got a busy schedule, and that absurd belief that you can be it all and do it all (honestly, you can’t!). Plus there’s the pressure to add new chores into your to-do list that’s already packed. And there’s the tendency to say NO to opportunities that could offer some moments of camaraderie and connection, because you just don’t know how to fit socializing into your life. These are the common pitfalls that many caregivers encounter and the result is that pervasive sense of loneliness.

 

What’s a caregiver to do? Here’s my short list of strategies that may help alleviate the loneliness that often accompanies caregiving. . .

 

  • If you’re still working (even if it is part-time) and you have co-workers, make time to engage with them socially at least once a month. That may require some negotiation or even having someone else come be with your loved one while you socialize – but that’s okay! You need to connect with the people you work with, both for your own emotional needs AND for the benefits that such socialization brings to the work itself!
  • Figure out who the people are who “lift you up” and make time to be in their company with some regularity. There’s no need to socialize with the Debbie Downers of the world, but when you find folks who lift your spirits, who make you feel good, be sure to carve out time to connect with them regularly!
  • Instead of defaulting to a flat “NO” try offering a qualified “Maybe” when other invitations come your way. Maybe you can drop by the neighborhood event for a brief visit (just for coffee, just for dessert, etc.) even if you can’t stay all day. Maybe you can join the book club virtually. Maybe you can have the neighbor visit with you on YOUR porch later that same week. Get creative!

 

Loneliness is real and it can add to the sense of sadness you’re already carrying. It can make you feel isolated and distant from everything and everyone else – and you don’t need to give it that much power over you! There are things you can do to alleviate the loneliness your own choices may be creating!

 

It’s about self-care! You have the right to make some choices that simply benefit you and your mental/emotional health. Connecting regularly with others is one of those decisions.

 

It may take some strategizing to figure out how to do that, but it will be worth the investment of your time and energy to find a way to connect with people you enjoy, activities that bring you pleasure and events that fill your spirit. It’s just another way of taking care of yourself. Socializing is a part of self-care!
 
As always, let me know if I can help.
 

Stay well.

 
*AARP Report on Caregiving in America (2022)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

Recent Posts

Young Asian woman sitting at her desk, with her laptop open in front of her, while holding her cell phone up to ear, appearing to be in conversation. There is an open notebook with a pen in front of her. There is a gray brickwall with office decor in the background.

Does coaching make a difference or does the coach make a difference?

This is something that I think about often, not only because I want to stand out as a coach among many options available to my ...
Read More →
Two black women sit on an outdoor bench, with green plants in the background, in conversation. It appears that they are offering each other support while in conversation.

Can Caregiver Stress Affect My Health?

Caregiving can be a risky business, especially if the caregiver experiences it as highly stressful.  There are many ways in which the stress of caregiving can ...
Read More →
An elder male sits at his desk, looking to his laptop and cross-referencing paperwork, notes, and numbers. There is a calculator and multiple stacks of paper on his desktop.

I Just Have Too Much To Do!

There certainly are those days when this is my chief complaint, “I just have too much to do!” I can appreciate that this may be hard to ...
Read More →
How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.

How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.