Vail Valley: Helping caregivers fight loneliness
Vail Daily community correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – A long-time caregiver once said, “No one advocates on my husband’s behalf except me; no one advocates on my behalf, not even me.”
Caregiving is exhausting, frightening and stressful, but the hardest thing for a caregiver is the isolation and loneliness.
As time goes on, and as their loved one worsens, family and friends fade away. A loved one’s disabling condition is hard to accept, hard to understand and hard to watch as it progresses. The caregiver lives in an ongoing grieving process, losing a little more of their loved one and a little more of self each day – losing a little more of what was and what might have been.
Friends and family may continue to call at first, and then they get back to their own lives. All the while, the caregivers put their lives on hold, or worse, they often have no lives.
A loved one’s serious illness can strain existing friendships. Most often, when people don’t know what to do, they do nothing; they stay away. And often when people don’t know what to say, they don’t say anything, or they say things that are not helpful.
Sometimes fear keeps people away. Their responses to the caregiver can make caregiving lonelier than it already is. The caregiver lives the consequences of that daily.
If you are a family member or friend of a caregiver and you are not helping them, you are one of the many who have abandoned them.
Caregivers need help. A few hours here and there to get away is important to maintain their emotional health and improve their lives. They need time to enjoy the world outside their homes.
Meaningful conversation that was once a part of life with their loved one and with others has nearly ceased for those caring for someone with dementia or other severe disabilities. Living in a world of silence other than the sound of the television can produce a deep sense of loneliness. Caregivers often have no one with whom to share their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows.
Family caregivers are at high risk for mental and physical health problems and are less likely to have health insurance coverage because they are out of the workforce. One-third of caregivers provide care to others while suffering from poor health themselves.
Caregivers are twice as likely to suffer from a chronic illness as their non-caregiving peers. Recent research from the University of Chicago found a 12 percent increase in blood pressure attributable to loneliness alone.
Thirty percent of caregivers are males, who are more reluctant to ask for help. However, women caregivers are twice as likely to suffer from depression. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of caregivers end up suffering from depression.
If you know a caregiver, you can do something about this problem. Offer to organize a small team of caregiver helpers to plan and assist primary caregivers. Send them the link to this article and encourage them to organize their own team.
Few newspapers offer as many pages as the Vail Daily does to a community that has so much to say. If you want to see your byline on this page, write about something you think is newsworthy and send it to Community Editor Lauren Glendenning at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 970-748-2983 for details.