Imagine you are a caregiver.
You care for your loved-one so tenderly and affectionately. Naturally, you know you take fantastic care of your beloved. And, you are grateful they are in your home. But, all you desire in your heart is to conquer being lonely or jealous.
Can you feel the tension?
A common experience but never a common expectation.
It’s true. It’s just not visible early on. There is a lot of social stimulation initially. But, the longer the caregiving occurs, the fewer the social interactions.
Medical service and provider visits are so, so frequent in the beginning. Then, these visits decrease (or even cease) as the caregiver masters the equipment and the actual care.
While this loss of service can be a struggle, it is an expected loss.
But, unexpectedly, family, social group and friend visits can also decrease, which may result in caregiver loneliness and even jealousy.
Having true expectations can help caregivers conquer being lonely or jealous as it begins. Be sure to openly communicate with family, friends and social group about the issues below.
Family members might stop coming because they may:
- Be uncomfortable watching the health of their loved one diminish and decide they can’t watch it.
- Look at the caregiver and inappropriately perceive that the caregiver has it ‘under control’ and doesn’t need help.
- Feel ill-equipped to help.
- May not want to participate at all.
Social group visits may also diminish.
Church, work, and community group visits are very frequent from the start but as the caregiving goes on for months, or even years, become less and less abundant. People get busy with their lives or other peoples’ immediate needs.
Keeping a ‘need list’ is an excellent way to keep those people coming AND keep people helping with caregiving.
Finally, friends disappear. And sadly, this can occur due to the caregiver!
- Friends can be the best support but may stop calling or visiting because the caregiver loses flexibility and the ability to plan.
- Caregivers tell friends no because they may begin to feel like a burden to friends because they continually talk about the ‘same ole’ story’ and so stop accepting requests.
4 Terrific Ways Caregivers Conquer Being Lonely or Jealous
1. Loneliness – Enlist Enough Help
Hands down enlisting enough help is the most important of the strategies, but the most often ignored, until late in the caregiving process.
I recently conducted a handful of informal interviews with people who were long-term caregivers to one of their parents. Each person was given a small series of the same questions, including “As a caregiver, what advice do you have for others: something that you learned the hard way?”
“Just take advantage of any support that is given to you or that is offered and don’t feel bad to take it, you will appreciate it, and you will need it, even if its only 10, 20 or 30 minutes.”
“You cannot lose your cool. Let the frustration roll off. You can’t ever do everything right every day and there will be bad days. And knowing when you can’t do it alone anymore. You’re going to beat yourself up but don’t because you’re only human. One human.”
“I would tell others that if their other parent is the primary caregiver, to make sure that they are getting enough help either from you, a skilled nurse or assistant or when appropriate, hospice care.”
There are numerous pressures and emotions while caregiving. Making sure there is plenty of help and support is a terrific strategy to help caregivers conquer being lonely or jealous.
2. Caregiver Loneliness – Scheduled ‘Must Go’ Outings
Caregiver loneliness is an effect of social isolation, especially when the care receiver becomes the only conversationalist. Getting out with friends, or just with people is one of the best ways caregivers conquer being lonely.
Unfortunately, caregivers lose their flexibility. The increasingly demanding care requirements make it hard to plan an outing. Inflexibility is particularly the case if the care receiver has dementia or has periods of hallucinations.
People stop calling as they perceive you are unable or unwilling to take a break. Although it is harder to get out of your home under these circumstances, there are a couple of things you can do.
- Allow people (preferably ones you know) into the home to provide care and respite. Connect again with social networks (refer to your list) or contact local providers to find appropriate services. These short-time services are affordable and sometimes can be free or at less cost than you expect.
- Call your friends and social connections. Set up a couple of potential meeting times for coffee or a short outing. Prepare them that you may have to reschedule but set up respite care so you CAN GO.
“What is the best way to help caregivers conquer being lonely or jealous? I’d say let them pick you up, listen to you and care.”
3. Caregiver Jealousy – Admit Jealous Feelings, but Refuse to Wallow
Regardless of what we were taught about emotions, we all feel them.
Some of us were inappropriately shown certain emotions should not be felt or allowed. The reality is that all emotions positive or negative, are appropriate to consider.
It is the action we take when we feel the emotion that should be guarded.
Jealous feelings can come with the loneliness and show up at odd times. It may even be triggered when you see or hear about friends or family having fun while you are providing care as a caregiver.
Acknowledgment of those feelings is healthy and appropriate. Life very well may stink for you as the caregiver at that moment! Note, it just may be time for you to get out for a while.
Nonetheless, you must refuse to wallow in it and to refuse to participate in negative behavior towards yourself or the care receiver. Wallowing in it will be harmful to you!
Try talking to a friend about your jealousy. Getting it off of your chest can lighten your load because you feel ‘heard’. If talking to a counselor is necessary, please do so to care for yourself. You will be a happier caregiver.
4. Caregiver Jealousy – Focus on Gratitude; Look for the Beautiful
An excellent strategy to conquer jealous emotions is to replace them with gratitude.
You can choose to feel gratitude.
Another set of responses in my informal interviews includes responses to: “Tell me something positive or beautiful you learned or experienced.”
“We formed a stronger relationship. Trust grew.”
“I learned that helping to care for my father has been a wonderful way to express my love for him.”
Gratitude can help you during this difficult time.
Be sure to enlist enough help for caregiving duties and to allow breaks. Schedule ‘must go’ outings and ensure you can go out by arranging for a respite caregiver. Admit and feel negative emotions, but refuse to wallow in them. Finally, focus on gratitude.
Caregiver loneliness & jealousy are normal emotions for caregivers so plan to use these strategies throughout your caregiving journey to conquer them. This may seem like a lot to change. But the most important thing is not to go at this all alone! I want you to stop, right now, and start making a caregiving helper list. Don’t feel guilty, people want to help. Write down the names of 3 people who can support you.
Even if you feel like you have everything under control, this is the place to start to help caregivers conquer being lonely or jealous while caregiving. You can do it. You will thank yourself later.