Most people have not personally provided care for a loved one and therefore cannot fully understand everything that goes into being a family caregiver. While this role can provide many gratifying moments and opportunities, the truth is that it’s often intense, exhausting, and worrisome. Being on-call around the clock is both physically and emotionally draining. As a result, a caregiver’s other relationships can easily fall by the wayside. Friendships are usually the first to suffer as caregiving causes a person’s priorities and availability to change. In situations where caregivers and their care recipients live together, friends can feel like they are intruding during visits. They may also feel uncomfortable because they don’t know how to act when an ailing elder, especially one who is cognitively impaired, is present. There are countless reasons why friends may fall out of touch and stray from their routines together when one becomes a caregiver.
The bottom line is that this responsibility makes it nearly impossible to have a social life, and outsiders—even those closest to us—typically have a hard time understanding this fact. Eventually, friends stop extending invitations and shrugging off plans that are canceled at the last minute. However, working together to achieve mutual understanding with true friends can help you both continue interacting with and supporting one another despite your changing circumstances.
When “Busy” Becomes a Way of Life: When caregivers and elders are living under the same roof, finding any amount of down time for other people and activities is a tremendous feat. But even those who don’t live with their care recipients have difficulty balancing their time. None of my elders lived in my home with me, but my friends knew how busy I was seeing to all their care needs. Sure, friends and colleagues would occasionally ask me how I was doing. I’d give them a short report, knowing that they really didn’t want to delve into the gritty details. They were basically being polite.