Is it Possible to Have Friends when you are a Caregiver?
When you are a caregiver relationships change. Mainly because you don’t have the time, energy and/or ability to leave your loved one for practical reasons. At the same time you need to get emotionally filled up more than ever before. But how? Well-intentioned friends generally don’t always understand the demands of caregiving. And you can’t always just leave the house and go for a movie.
Understand first that caregiving by its nature is sacrificial. Your relationships probably aren’t going to be at the same level as before. There’s just not enough of you to go around. Because of caregiving contraints you will have to be more wise with your time and your friendships.
- Facebook Groups: Having said that, there are still some ways to get human interaction. There are always a lot of facebook groups on caregiving. These can be helpful as you can connect with people in similar situations. But also beware as they might be counterproductive to your emotional health. See the post here on Caregiver Facebook Groups – Are They Worth It?
- Get Free Government Help for Caregivers. Another option is to bring in professional help as a caregiver. That doesn’t necessarily mean paid by you. Most states offer a program that covers on average 16 hours of caregiving a month, or 20 hours of caregiving for a dementia patient. What that means is that a trained professional can be sent to your house to care for your loved one on typically a weekly basis while you do other things. For awhile we had someone come for 4 hours a week which allowed us the ability to run errands. If you go for this option, use the time wisely. Get emotionally refreshed rather than just your to-do list done. Emotional renewal will offer more dividends. Call your local Area Council on Aging to find out what is available in your area.
- Local support groups. Local support groups on caregiving and other special issues can provide a place for you to meet new friends, connect with people who really understand and learn more how to help your loved one.
- Invite low-maintenance friends over for coffee. Explain to them you can’t leave and need to be available to your loved one, but take the initiative to invite others. Make sure they are low-maintenance friends. If you have needy friends this is not necessarily the time to include them at greater levels in your life. It sounds mean but it is self-preservation for the sake of your loved one.
- Discover new interests. It is an absolute must that you find creative ways to get emotional fulfillment. You have to be somewhat intentional as it will typically look different than your former care-giving life. Maybe take up card-playing or painting. Perhaps there is a skill you would like to learn that you can do on your own time on the internet. Bring out the genealogy information to go over with your loved one. This can be beneficial for both. Ask God to help you discover new interests (for me it is doing this website right here).
Every desert looks bleak but if you look and learn where to look, there are places for water. It’s just not as obvious. I just want to encourage you to be intentional in keeping your eyes open because caregiving is a different kind of season.