UNDERSTAND LONELINESS IS NOT PERMANENT
Loneliness does not have to be permanent. With new found belief and hope that loneliness is not permanent comes new responsibility. Nothing teaches as profoundly as a good example. That works in caregiving as well as it works elsewhere in life. Everyone wants to know and follow someone who can be looked up to, someone who is exemplary. It could be you being looked up to by the recipient of your care. Being a good example, like being any kind of role model, may not be easy. Good achievement seldom is. But your loved one needs you to be the best example possible. Patients want to follow the caregiver’s lead. To eventually be happy, even though now lonely, you must take the lead in your relationship with the patient.
The story of Heather below is encouraging. She is trying, doing her best, and seeing hope where there isn’t much. But she keeps going. She is adjusting to a “very lonely marriage”. Hopefully, she will be rewarded.
“My husband has ESRF and I feel the same. It’s not that I don’t have those feelings. It’s just that the disease has destroyed that part of our lives almost from the get go. We were only married 4 years when he was diagnosed with it. That was 14 years ago. I love my husband so much and he has been a good provider and husband but I often feel as if he is such a burden which makes me feel guilty and selfish. He is only 46 but he moves, acts, walks and talks like he is an old man. ….. I have remained young and fit and he has aged well beyond his years. People often think he is my father when we are out places together and out children are his grand kids. It is a very lonely marriage. But love keeps me here with him and God.”
Being Lonely Versus Being Alone - There is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. A person can be alone and be perfectly comfortable. But feeling lonely is different. Feeling socially involved is a natural and happy feeling. Feeling lonely is not. One of the most common, negative impacts of care giving, as acknowledged by the caregivers, is loneliness. This is particularly true with marriage partners, and is truer the longer they have been married. Often caregivers feel that, though actually physically present, their loved one is simply emotionally absent. Whether married or not, when the person receiving care is no longer emotionally able to be present in the relationship, the loneliness can feel worse than if that loved one were not there at all. Although the caregiver is providing service for and associating with a loved one, the service still may be tedious and difficult. And yet, in order to improve the situation, the caregiving must continue, and a good example must be set to achieve real happiness for both parties.
Lost and Lonely –Patients have no one else to blame, so with anger they blame the caregiver. But what do caregivers do? Do they get angry and lonely? Yes, of course they do, but is it justified? Probably not, but nevertheless it is still frustrating! Often caregivers write about the problems they face without saying they are lonely, but it is obvious they are. Loneliness comes easy when an individual is frustrated, confused or fatigued. Some patients are lonely because of their treatment and circumstances and other caregivers feel lonely because the person they are caring for is nasty, unappreciative and verbally abusive. But despite the obstacles placed before them, it is their collective, emotional health at risk. Even though lonely, deciding to not let the circumstance be a large obstacle is important.
No One Wants To Be Lonely - Loneliness is an enemy to a happy life. No one wants to be lonely. Being lonely is contrary to being happy. Besides loneliness, there are other difficult stresses that need to be managed. Caregivers comment that the caregiving separates the caregivers from their normal lives and the people who are in it. They miss not only the loved one to whom they offer care, whom they may now feel is missing due to illness, but they also miss the other people in their lives. They become lonely. Don’t you be the one to miss the routine, the things and the people you love.
Get Rid Of Guilt – Guilt often seems to accompany many of the other fall-out emotions of caretaking. Caregiving causes difficult emotions to emerge in relationships. One of the most prevalent is guilt. Even when the other emotions are justified, guilt may not be justified. There may possibly be some good in that. Because it is normal to want to have things perfect, or at least successful, any measurement less than that, has a moral application. It can often cause normal human beings to feel guilty they didn’t measure up to their own expectations or the annoying
expectations of others.
Get Rid Of Resentment - How do you prevent resentment from impacting the caregiving you provide? How do you maintain the marriage or any other relationship while shifting your role? There is much you can do, and one of the most important things to do is take care of yourself. Stress and fatigue can have a significant impact on family caregivers, and that stress can impact the quality of your care. By allowing others to help, having a mature understanding that you should not do this alone, and taking regular breaks from your role – you allow yourself to be in a better place and to overcome your new resentment.
Get Rid of Anger – In almost every story read, one of the two parties to caregiving is angry. Often the caregiver writes about the problems without saying they are angry, but it is obvious that they are. Anger comes easy when an individual is frustrated, confused and fatigued. Some patients are angry because of their treatment and circumstances and other caregivers are angry because the person they are caring for is nasty, unappreciative and verbally abusive.
Get Rid Of Negative Feelings – Negative thoughts and feelings are like cancer – they almost never stop growing. Caregivers are advised to get rid of hard or negative feelings – they are extremely
destructive. Negative thinking can consume positive energy and eventually make an individual
painfully despondent. Negative feelings can change a personality, drive away friends and add
displeasure and unhappiness.
Get Rid of Desire to Quit – Sometimes we don’t get what we want. We work at it, and then we try hard, and still the difficult in life doesn’t change. Even in those times, we are left with some options. First, we simply must not give up. That isn’t easy. Not receiving a reward for significant work is also not easy. But it can be done.
Final Thoughts - There are emotions that can syphon away the energy and hope from valiant and kind caregivers. What can be worse is the reality that loneliness may simply just be the first emotion that spirals downward. Try not to let that downward spiral be you. So what are you going to do about it? Don’t accept being lonely. It does not have to be permanent. Call someone!