by Maurice A. Barnes, MBA
The Summer of 2011 for me will always be remembered as the time my dad spent nearly a month in the hospital with back problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis. For over half of my dad’s life he has battled with this debilitating auto-immune disease. While my dad was in the hospital, my semi-retired mom was by his side day and night. While my dad lie in a hospital bed, my mom sat in the hospital lounge chair watching doctors, nurses and specialist go in and out of the room caring for my dad.
While visiting my dad on one weekend, I realized that mom had not left the hospital in weeks. I could tell the stress of being by dad’s side was affecting her. My mom is an active person in her community and church and the isolation of caring for dad was draining her essence. I know my mom loves to shop, so I encouraged her to leave the hospital while we watched over
dad. My mom was in search of a JCPenney’s. I do not know how much money my mom spent or if she just window shopped, but she returned to hospital several hours later refreshed and to find my dad still in great care at the hospital.
Seeing my mom’s need to be by my dad’s side started to help me see how caring for a loved one can lead to caregiver isolation. According to the 2008 VON Caregiver Risk Factor Report, social isolation is the lack of social activities and relationships aside from that with the care recipient. Outside of the visitors my dad had, my mom was not able to socialize with others. Like my mom, so many other caregivers are isolated or falling into isolation and no one notices.
There are many different reasons why a caregiver may be isolated, but according to the Family Caregivers Network Society article “Reducing Caregiver Isolation”, here are some ways to minimize caregiver isolation:
Caregiving is a demanding and stressful job. I am glad I notice my mom’s isolation and provided her the support she needed. I encourage all caregivers to ask for help and for those who know caregivers, lend a helping hand and let’s reduce caregiver stress and isolation.
To read more on reducing caregiver isolation, click this link for more information.