Years ago, when I worked for a company called AdultCare, we conducted research on members of the National Family Caregivers Association. Those were the days when our country was first trying to understand family caregiving and its implications. I clearly remember that adult family caregivers who had the highest levels of depression were those who were caring for someone with mobility impairments.
It makes total sense! When it is more difficult for a person to leave home, isolation abounds and with isolation comes depression. And nothing is simple for people with disabilities, not even a brief, everyday outing.
Every family caregiver, regardless of age, needs support; needs to know that he or she is not alone. If you work or volunteer with caregiving families, or if someone in your family is a caregiver for an aging or ill loved one, it is critical for that person's well-being to know (and feel) that he or she is not alone.
And finally, if you are a family caregiver you must do everything in your power to reduce your isolation: stay in touch with friends; attend support groups; take regular respite breaks and use social media to get and stay connected. Prevent isolation before it grabs hold of your being so you will be alone no longer.
Reducing loneliness in caregiving youth
Feelings of isolation and loneliness can be especially profound in youth caregivers, who might not know anyone else their age who has shouldered such immense responsibility.
"Alone No Longer" is the title of one of the sessions of the April 23rd Caregiving Youth Institute Conference (www.cgyinstitute.org). The session will be led by two professionals who have worked with youth caregivers—one is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and the other is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. The kids, beginning in 6th Grade, first learn they are no alone in this role in their school, then they meet caregiving youth from other schools and now can use social media to connect with youth caregivers worldwide.
This invaluable initiative helps youth caregivers find strength by supporting each other. One high-school aged caregiver was looking after his grandmother and had been receiving help as a family caregiver since middle school. "They (the Caregiving Youth Project team) have my back," he told a reporter who asked how he was being supported by the program.