How lonely are you? A 2018 Cigna Loneliness Survey revealed that nearly 57% of adults in America have no meaningful social interaction in their day, so if you are feeling isolated in your role as a caregiver, you are not alone. Many family caregivers struggle with the social isolation they discover when they accept the role of caring for aging loved ones. Take the Cigna Loneliness Survey here to see how you measure up.
When Betsy stayed with her mother during the last few weeks of Sarah’s life, she struggled with the loneliness of being out of her routines and away from family and friends. In her words, “That time was richly spent with my mom, but socially I felt cut off from my family and friends back at home in Virginia. The social isolation I experienced left me feeling tired, frustrated, depressed and angry in turn, and my experience was only a microcosm of what most family caregivers go through over the months, years, or even decades they navigate while caring for those they love.”
Social isolation has many dangers; among these are emotional eating, sleep disruptions, depression, weight gain or loss, cognitive decline and other physical symptoms that can reduce your capacity to care for yourself or someone you love. In fact, research shows that social isolation or loneliness has the same impact on death rates as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Conversely, people with healthy, regular social engagement are healthier overall and lead more productive lives. We are all made in God’s image, and He made us as relational people. We need a relationship with God and with each other to live healthy lives that avoid social isolation. We can accomplish this through church activities, coffee with a friend, a book club or caregiver support group, an exercise class, or even by having regular online or phone contact with distant family members. The important thing is to make it happen.
If you feel socially isolated, reach out to others for help. Ask a friend or family member to come and stay with your loved one for an hour or two regularly so you can connect socially with others. Hire a homecare company to fill in a little or a lot so you can regain some balance in your life. With some effort, you can get reconnected and feel socially supported by your safety net of family, friends, and others in your resource pool.
We hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about managing and avoiding the dangers of social isolation in your own life.