How to Fight Caregiver Isolation When Your Loved One Has Dementia

Caregiver isolation tends to happen slowly over time. It may start with you cutting back on work hours or giving up on travel with your family. Little by little, you step away from your hobbies and even the fun outings that add spice to life, like going out for drinks with friends at the end of the week. Without even realizing it, you could find yourself feeling isolated and anxious. You are not alone. Caregiver isolation is extremely common, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it!

How Caregiver Isolation Happens

There are so many reasons caregivers become isolated. Just caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s requires a lot of time and focus. You may find your hours taken up with dressing and cleaning your loved one, making meals, and taking them to doctor appointments. As the disease progresses, you may find that you can no longer leave your loved one home alone for long periods of time.

Every outing can become a struggle that your friends and family cannot fathom. They have no idea that it takes an hour to get your loved one ready and in the car. They don’t realize how difficult it can be when your loved one gets confused at a restaurant, has an outburst at the hair salon, or wanders away in a store. Going out can become so hard that it just becomes easier to stay at home.

When you keep declining invitations to parties, dinners, and special events, your friends and family may stop reaching out.

The Dangers of Caregiver Isolation

A growing amount of research suggests isolation doesn’t just negatively impact your mood; it can damage your physical and mental health!

Studies have shown that loneliness changes the immune system and increases inflammation, heart disease, and stroke. It’s been linked to depression in older adults and even a shortened lifespan! This makes sense. We humans are social creatures, and we crave love and support from our social circle. Sometimes what we need the most is a simple acknowledgement that we exist!

Unfortunately, the nature of dementia has a way of increasing isolation. As your loved one’s memory and their ability to acknowledge and appreciate you diminishes, their care requirements increase.

Fighting Caregiver Isolation

Providing care to a spouse, parent, or loved one with dementia is a tremendous act of kindness and courage, but that doesn’t mean you have to step away from the world and your life. Do not let isolation win.

Doing the things you love and spending time with your social group will be more challenging when you become a caregiver, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Here are a few ways you can fight caregiver isolation:

  • Adult Day Care: Check out this article we wrote about adult day care facilities, which can provide supervision and care for seniors during the day, allowing you time to work, relax, or pursue your hobbies. Unfortunately, adult day care can’t always handle adults in the later stages of dementia who need high levels of supervision and care.
  • Respite Care: Ask a family member or a trusted neighbor or friend to watch your loved one on a regularly scheduled basis (ex. one afternoon a week). This will allow you time to take care of yourself. Go for a walk. Visit with friends. Go out to dinner with your kids. Keep your social relationships strong. If you don’t feel comfortable asking someone to help share the caregiver burden, try to find local organizations in your area, such as San Diego’s Aging and Independence Services.
  • Support Groups: It can be difficult for outside friends and neighbors to understand all the challenges you face in caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. At the same time, you may feel like you have nothing to talk about except your loved one. A support group for caregivers of family members with dementia can help you connect with people who are facing the same struggles as you. This can be a great resource to get advice, give advice, and simply be heard and acknowledged.
  • Reach Out: Your closest friends and family members may have no idea how lonely you feel. How are they supposed to know unless you tell them? If you need support, ask for it. Call your best friends, your children, your siblings, or your neighbor. Invite them over for lunch. Ask them to give you a call each week to check on you. Don’t feel self-conscious. Your friends and family love you. They want to help. They just need to know how!

Join Our Monthly Support Group

In an effort to combat caregiver isolation, Sunshine Care hosts a free monthly caregiver support group at our Poway location. Our support group is open to the public, so if you live in San Diego County, we encourage you to stop by and give it a try. It really can be transformative to meet other caregivers, share your stories, and receive understanding and support from others!

We hope to see you there!

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