We’ve covered the negative impact social isolation has on senior’s health in previous posts. But a recent article in The New York Times reminded us that caregivers often struggle under this same weight. The article begins with the story of Marcy Sherman-Lewis who’s been caring for her husband who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Every week Marcy had a standing appointment at her favorite salon. As her husband’s disease progressed, she could no longer leave him home alone and began bringing him to her appointments. Eventually, the salon owner took Marcy aside and asked that she no longer bring her husband because he made other customers uncomfortable. So now, Marcy can no longer go to her weekly appointments, which was one of her few remaining social outlets. And her story isn’t unique:
“Caregiving is done with a lot of love and affection, but there’s a lot of loss involved,” said Carey Wexler Sherman, a gerontologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. “People talk about friends disappearing, about even family members not wanting to be involved. It’s a lonely business.”
For many caregivers – especially those caring for Dementia patients – going out in public creates more apprehension than reward. “They say, ‘I’m exhausted trying to explain to people why she’s doing what she’s doing, why they shouldn’t be angry or afraid…’” At that point, it’s just easier to stay home. But that decision creates a new set of problems.
The Health Impacts of Isolation
Research suggests that isolation impacts caregivers in many of the same ways as seniors. They’re much more susceptible to depression, heart disease, and stroke. Depression later in life has also been shown to increase a person’s risk of developing dementia. So how do caregivers combat social isolation? The answer is fairly simple: emotional support. Researchers found that providing caregivers with several counseling sessions, access to support groups, and phone access to counselors as needed returned positive results. The added emotional support led “to less stress, less depression, [and] better health…”
In addition to emotional support, providing caregivers with tangible help does a lot of good. Although it might require asking the caregiver very specific questions about how to provide it. At the very least, a simple phone call or text can make a caregiver seem less alone. Tangible help also exists in the form of respite care, which gives caregivers short breaks from their full-time responsibilities.
All this goes to show that caregiving shouldn’t be a solitary endeavor. Friends, family members, and professionals alike must support these committed caregivers at every turn. As our country continues to age, and the number of seniors requiring round-the-clock care increases, we’ll all need to become much better at providing this kind of support for one another.
Respite Care in the Valley
If you’re a caregiver suffering under the weight of your responsibilities, Generations Home Care can help. Our caregivers offer respite services so you can take a much-needed break from your important job. We also offer ongoing home care that’s probably more affordable that you think. For more information, give us call anytime at 602-595-HOME (4663) and we can give you more information. Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs imaginable and there’s no reason you should do it alone.