Are you a family caregiver who feels isolated from family and friends?
Asking someone “How are you?” has become a greeting between people who have little time (or inclination) to respond.
As a caregiver, when was the last time that someone asked you how you were doing and stayed around long enough to hear your truthful answer?
In today’s fast-paced culture, caregiver isolation is a reality. Simply asking someone, “How are you?” has become a greeting between people who have little time (or inclination) to respond with more than just “fine” or “okay”.
Although asking someone how they’re doing sounds friendly, it may not always be an invitation for the other person to open up about their lives in greater detail.
Sometimes, I get asked this question by a person who is literally walking away from me as I’m giving them my one-word answer. I can’t even get offended by the quick-fire exchange of meaningless words because I’ve been guilty of committing the same social sin.
Family caregiver isolation
When someone becomes a family caregiver, it’s usually because someone in their life was diagnosed with a serious illness, is undergoing rehab after a traumatic injury, recovering from a medical procedure, or they are taking care of an elderly parent, spouse, or relative.
There’s no learning curve to being a family caregiver because it’s usually a day-to-day trial by fire, and it’s difficult to anticipate how all-encompassing the caregiving role can be.
The more involved a family caregiver is with their role and responsibilities, the greater their risk of becoming isolated and burned out.
Caregiver isolation occurs when the role of caregiving overshadows every aspect of a caregiver’s life, to the detriment of their previous social connections and lifestyle.
With over eight million Canadians (nearly 30 per cent of the population) who are currently caregivers, and 58 per cent of Canadians expecting to be caregivers in the near future, the issue of family caregiver isolation is a big concern.
The role of caregiving can result in psychological, health, financial, and professional consequences, leading to caregiver stress and caregiver burnout.
HAYFT – How are you feeling today?
HAYFT is Elizz-shorthand for, “How are you feeling today?” and it’s a question that we ask all caregivers on our website.
Our research has shown that 80 per cent of care at home is provided by family and friends, and 74 per cent of family caregivers don’t believe that they have complete access to Canadian caregiver resources.
We’ve heard countless stories from family caregivers who feel that no one understands their struggle because no one has ever bothered to ask and, especially, listen to their reply.
Elizz is here to change that perspective.
When caregivers visit the How are you feeling today? page on the Elizz website, they can actually give us their feedback based on their emotions at that particular point in time.
They can choose between:
“I may need help.”
”Could use a friend.”
”Not sure where to go next.”
Depending on what they select, Elizz will guide them towards taking next steps to address the issue, such as looking up Canadian caregiver services that they may find useful in dealing with their caregiving responsibilities, or reading helpful blog posts that can inform them on caregiving issues that may be of interest or concern.
There’s also an individual message for the caregiver, recognizing their situation and validating their caregiving efforts.
Of the 3,400 Canadian caregivers who have tried the HAYFT feature since Elizz first launched in November 2015:
- 25 per cent clicked on Feeling Stressed
- 20 per cent clicked on Feeling Awesome
- 16 per cent clicked on Not Sure Where To Go Next
This, and the data we receive from family caregivers who took the Elizz 5 LifeStages of Caregiving quiz, tell us that they are likely in the Intensive or Involved stages of caregiving. (Read more about the 5 LifeStages of Caregiving here.
Other results show that 14 per cent of family caregivers clicked “Could Use a Friend”, while 15 per cent clicked on “I May Need Help.” Rounding out the list are the 12 per cent of caregivers who clicked “In Crisis.”
Caregiver social isolation
What sounds like a simple question can actually be a lifeline for many who may be experiencing caregiver social isolation due to:
- Seeing their family, friends, and peers moving on with their own lives
- Not having any social activities or creative outlets outside of caregiving responsibilities
- Coming to an irreparable shift in relationship dynamics with the person who is now in their care
- Not receiving relief support from their personal network in order to recharge and get respite from caregiving
If you believe you are feeling caregiver social isolation, reach out to your personal networks to re-establish connections that may have been dropped at some point after you became a caregiver.
If you still have questions or need help, Elizz also offers caregiver counselling services.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.