If you’re caring for a person with dementia, the loneliness can sometimes feel overwhelming. Here’s a few ideas that might help you feel less isolated.
Caring isn’t just hard work, it can be incredibly lonely and isolating too. If the person you love has dementia, the loneliness often intensifies as their illness progresses. So is carer loneliness simply an inevitable part of the dementia journey? Or are there ways to prepare and protect yourself from the pain it can cause?
Live Better With lifts the lid on loneliness and dementia:
Loneliness in the early stages of dementia
Could this be YOU?
The person you love is still fairly independent and the physical tasks of caring aren’t too arduous just yet. But short-term memory loss is taking its toll. As you steel yourself for the long road ahead, small, seemingly trivial things begin to bother you, and make you feel… lonely.
‘We used to love watching a good thriller together on TV and enjoyed guessing ‘whodunit’. But he can’t follow the plots anymore. It sounds silly because his dementia is still quite mild, and I have a lot to be grateful for, but when we watch TV together now I feel lonely. I’m already missing him.’
Loneliness in the mid stages of dementia
Could this be YOU?
The practical tasks involved in caring are becoming more demanding. You sometimes feel exhausted, but the changes in your relationship are more difficult to deal with than any physical tasks. You often feel desperately lonely.
‘I know I’m lucky to still have her with me, but there’s no conversation at all. I try chatting away, as I always have and occasionally I get a response…but usually there’s nothing. Sometimes she looks straight through me. That’s when it really hits me that I’m on my own.’
Loneliness in the later stages of dementia
Could this be YOU?
If the person you love has moved into a care home, the physical strain may have eased, but the loneliness can feel acute. It’s hardly surprising that many carers find this the loneliest time of all.
‘I visit him every day, but I dread going back home because the loneliness is unbearable. I know I need to keep busy and I could do all those hobbies I used to enjoy, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm. The light has gone out of my life.’
Did you know?
Loneliness can be as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Are you feeling lonely? 5 ways to help yourself
1.Be kinder to yourself
Your feelings are normal and natural. Even if your loved one’s dementia is still very mild, you are still experiencing loss. You may also be experiencing anticipatory grief (or ‘living grief’) as you look ahead and wonder what might happen next. Don’t underestimate how difficult and painful this process can be. Berating yourself won’t help you (it will probably make you feel a whole lot worse) and it definitely won’t help the person you love.
2. Be honest with family and friends
A dementia diagnosis affects everyone in the family – not just you – so don’t be afraid to share the load. Relatives and close friends often want to help, but don’t know how. A simple phone call, explaining how you feel, might be all it takes to get them onboard, and make you feel less alone.
3. Stay in touch
Try to make sure you have some contact with the outside world every day. Even if it’s just chatting to a neighbour, having a quick coffee with a friend or talking to your grandchildren on Skype.
4. Take a break
This might sound easier said than done, however most carers agree that respite is the best way to combat loneliness. Go here to find out more.
5. Contact people who understand
Here’s 3 great organisations that understand what you’re going through and can help you feel less lonely.