According to research, the effects of caregiving not only has an effect on mental health, but also physical health and longevity. In fact, some studies have shown that things such as elevated blood pressure, increased inflammatory response, poor sleep, and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol may occur. Feeling isolated may also lead to increase rates of anxiety and depression.
Isolation is a real issue. One of the reasons that it may happen is because often times caregivers’ social connections may fall by the wayside as the responsibilities keep increasing. As parents age, sometimes their needs become more intensified and the focus often becomes their aging parent. It is hard to try to balance everything and sometimes it feels easier (and necessary) to let go of your own needs rather than the needs of the older adult in your life.
Again, you are not alone. It may feel that way, but there may be things that could help you feel more connected and engaged, even with the limited energy you may be feeling. For example, if you are taking care of your loved one(s)in your home, maybe a visit from a family member or friend could lift your spirits and the spirits of your loved ones. During this time of COVID-19 you could sit outside (weather depending) in the fresh air, six feet apart and this may be exactly the connection that you have been craving.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for help. Often times, caregivers are the ones who are the ones helping, not asking for help. But the more that you can try to balance the scales again in your life, the more you can be available emotionally and physically for your parent. It is critical to recognize your own limits, set some boundaries, and make your needs a priority as well.
Joining a support group might also be extremely beneficial to help with feeling of isolation and loneliness. It can be utilized as a space that is separate from your family and friends where you can openly vent, express your thoughts and feelings, and possibly get some useful advice and support from others dealing with the stress of caregiving. Caregiving can be demanding and feeling connected to others who are going through it at the same time as you are may feel validating.
In the end, no matter if you are caring for your loved ones from afar or in your home, the demands may at times feel overwhelming. But you are not alone. Call a friend, join a support group, or ask a family/friend for a visit. Just hearing a familiar voice may be what is needed to make you feel connected again.