Adult children who care for an aging parent living with Alzheimer’s disease often fail to recognize how isolated they have become. Unusual and unpredictable behavior associated with Alzheimer’s can create challenges when socializing outside of the home. Being concerned a loved one with dementia will wander or become overly agitated makes it difficult to take them shopping or out for lunch. These challenges and others may cause family caregivers to slowly distance themselves from friends and family.
Overcoming social isolation can feel like an uphill battle when a senior loved one needs so much support. There are, however, ways caregivers can regain a sense of normalcy even in the midst of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Reasons Alzheimer’s Caregivers Become Isolated
First, it is important to understand what may be preventing you from receiving help. Without meaning to, caregivers may be pushing people away and declining offers of help. Some of the common reasons caregivers don’t receive help include:
• Feelings of guilt and shame that they aren’t personally doing enough for their loved one can keep caregivers from asking for help or even accepting it when it is offered.
• Being overwhelmed with the demands this role has placed upon them, caregivers might not be able to determine what type of help and support they need.
• Not knowing where to go or who to call for help. Many times a lack of time to investigate options keeps caregivers from even trying to find help.
Suggestions for Regaining Balance and Managing Demands
If you are trying to regain a sense of balance in your life and better manage the demands of caregiving, these tips might be of help:
• Reconnect with friends and family. One way to accomplish this, even with a busy schedule, is through social media. Facebook is a great platform for catching up with friends and family online when the senior you care for is resting or sleeping.
• Join an online support group for Alzheimer’s caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association and Eldercare Locator are two avenues for finding a group you feel comfortable participating in. One of the benefits of joining an online group is that you can visit and chat at your convenience.
• Investigate memory care organizations and programs in your area that involve both the caregiver and the adult living with dementia. Our Place Memory Café is one such program offered to residents in the Long Island area. At a monthly event, caregivers have an opportunity to talk with fellow caregivers while their loved ones socialize with their peers.
• Investigate the options for respite care services in your community. Having someone who can stay with your loved one on a regular basis will provide you with an opportunity to enjoy a few hours out with friends and family or to reconnect with old hobbies and interests. Your local church or synagogue might have volunteers who offer companionship to a senior while their loved one takes a break. Home care agencies and senior living communities usually welcome short-term respite clients. If you are concerned about financing a respite stay, check with your local Agency on Aging. They will likely have options for assistance.
• Utilize video chat services like Skype to enjoy a “face-to-face” conversation with friends on a routine basis. Having more personal interaction, even a video conference, may prevent you from feeling isolated and alone.
We hope these suggestions will help you take positive steps toward reconnecting with the friends, interests and hobbies you enjoyed before you became a caregiver!