Every caregiver will experience a dwindling effect on their social life. Through my own school of hard knocks, I can tell you how my telephone practically stopped ringing. I was at the point where I was about to call “Ma Bell” to find out if I was having any technical difficulties.
Friends from the past will eventually stop calling after their invitations to attend gatherings or evenings at the movies have been declined time and time again. Even well meaning people can be put off by the mere fact that you cannot leave your loved one alone. Recently, a woman said to me, “Nobody realizes that sometimes it’s like babysitting a 16-armed octopus. You can’t leave them alone for a single minute.”
The general population has never experienced the 24/7 hardships of caregiving so naturally they have no conception of the amount of sacrifices that must be made.
While taking care of your loved one you simply keep telling yourself that your old friends are just on hold. Well, now that I’m almost closing in on a year’s time since my father’s passing I have discovered that only the most sincere and faithful friendships have survived.
But, on the other hand, there’s an upside regarding the subject of human relationships and that is the befriending of new acquaintances who are fellow caregivers, people who are walking the same path as you. The support and passion of these strong individuals may be more valuable and emboldening then the companions you knew from your past.
This creates another proficient debate on how priceless support groups truly are. I remain amazed at the number of people who still attend the meetings after their loved one has perished, staying to help give their fellow caregivers comforting advice they so much need. Some even become group leaders themselves. It just goes to prove you never know where this journey of caring will take you.
Social isolation is a high risk factor for developing dementia. This is just one of the reasons for you to remain somewhat socially active. Whether it’s through internet chat rooms or staying in touch with friends on Facebook, phone calls or even the old fashion U.S. Mail, it is vital to have some form of communication with the outside world. While caring for my father, there would be times when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t left the property in a three week period. A trip to the barber shop not only becomes a blessing but a major social event. Learn to cherish the ones that lend you an ear, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. Keep an open mind to the unforeseen new friendships you may encounter. There is something special about socializing with a colleague that is in the same boat as you. Try not to worry about the friends that have slowly slipped away. This demanding journey of caregiving may guide your life into a totally different direction.
There are many favorable sides of caregiving and the support and love from new friends is one of them.