Caregiving at Home? Seven Tips to Beat Loneliness and Monotony

September 9, 2009 at 6:31 pm 2 comments

I spent close to three years caring for my mom–at home–alone. 

Most days, it was just her and I. I’d sip on my coffee and watch my daughters head off to school and after-school jobs, and I’d watch my husband dress for work. He’d kiss me goodbye and I wanted to cry–or scream, “Take me with you!” Caregiving can be lonely.

I’d look over at my mom sitting beside me at the kitchen table, both of us still in our house robes, and at times, I wished I could be a thousand other places. It’s a quiet, necessary job. It’s not even fair to call it a job when you’re caring for a dear loved one, but aspects of it are job-like.  Day-after=day, I’d count pills, wash sheets, answer the same questions (my mom had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), and it felt as if we were getting nowhere fast.

How do you handle the isolation and monotony?

By first remember why you’re caregiving. You’re caregiving someone you love. Your’e caregiving because they need you–you’re their advocate. The why of caregiving is important. It’s your anchor, and no matter how crazy-stormy-angry-lost you may feel at times, remembering the why will guide you.

Seven Tips to Avoid Caregiver Isolation and Monotony:

  • Find or start a caregiving co-op. Trust me, you’re not the only at-home caregiver in your area. I bet there are a handful within a ten-mile radius of your home. Go to a caregiver meeting (check your senior community center, or your local elder-care association or Meet-Ups.com to find other caregiving families in your area. Why not have a one-day a week care-share day? Invite another care family over for lunch. The two of you can chat while the two care-buddies hang out. Depending on how things go, you may find that the two of your could swap and give each other a few hours off here and there. 
  • Take an online class. Do you know there’s everything from cooking lessons to guitar or foreign language lessons online? Even YouTube.com offers mini-lessons for free. You can learn how to knit, how to write a memoir, how to draw, how to change the oil in your car–all online. Learning keeps your brain active and gives you something to look forward to. Those neurons will be popping like popcorn with the joy of learning.
  •  Join an online forum. It could be one on AARP (their forums are great), or on Alz.org (Alzheimer’s Association), but don’t limit it to caregiving. You’re so much more–join a group on Gather.com. Even an online game can be a fun break from caregiving chores. You don’t have to leave home to make a friend.
  • Don’t do the same things the same way. Take a different route home from the grocery store of the doctor’s office. Take an extra ten minutes for a nice drive. Turn down a road you’ ve never been on. Get lost. Your brain loves the stimulation and likes to problem solve. Don’t worry–you’ll find your way back, and who knows what you might discover just a few streets over. Do one thing different a day–brush your teeth with your less dominant hand, color your head red instead of its usual brown. Try cooking couscous instead of rice with dinner. Your brain will thank you, and you might even find something new that you really like.
  • Exploring doesn’t have to involve a passport. Explore your own home and yard. Most of us have at least a dozen unfinished projects. Now’s the time, so finish that baby scrapbook of your granddaughter’s, or refinish that old desk of your mom’s. Sure, it may take six months because you can only spare a few minutes a day, but it’s a pleasant diversion and you may find out that you like it.
  • Consider starting a home-based business. Start a website or join one that’s already active. Etsy.com is a place you can all kinds of art–from knitted hats to pottery to paintings to jewelry. Many caregivers have found that their caregiving years allowed them to discover new interests and new business opportunities. Even ten minutes a day adds up.

Yes, it takes effort, and you feel like a zombie most days. I hope you’ll push yourself a bit because the pay-off is tremendous. Just because you’re home–a lot–doesn’t mean that there are amazing opportunities and friendships to be found. Get out of your old habits, peek your head out of your rabbit hole and see what interests you.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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