"One person caring about another represents life's greatest value." -- Jim Rohn
As a caregiver, you know the rewards you feel when you provide social support to others, sharing of yourself with another or helping them through a tough time. However, as a caregiver, do you feel that you receive the same type of support for yourself?
Social connections are an important part of life and in the flux of providing caregiving to another they can be forgotten or ignored.
Why is social connectedness important?
Social connections give you physical and emotional comfort both in good and in difficult times, and can come from many different sources.
Some caregivers may have friends and family who provide this caregiver support network while others may be part of caregiver support groups, consisting of people going through similar life circumstances. However this social caregiver support arrives to you, it is a crucial element in keeping you healthy while you are a caregiver.
Components of social connections
For caregivers who have healthy social connections, you will likely agree that you have a few of the following forms of social support. If you feel that you need more physical support or are lacking in caregiver emotional support, see which of the following you may be lacking.
Giving mutual emotional support: Sharing is an important part of social connectedness; however, building reciprocal relationships are the cornerstones. Having a caregiver support group that is committed to understanding your needs can increase the likelihood that you will not burn out but it also provides you the opportunity to offer the same emotional and social support to your connections. A relationship is give and take no matter how busy you are.
Benefiting from other caregiver’s experience: There is added value to having emotional support in that others may be able to offer their opinions on how they would handle a similar situation. For example, you may be struggling with behavioural outbursts from the person you are caring for. Someone in your caregiver social network may be able to give you advice on how they were able to manage these behaviours or where you can find additional caregiver support information.
Day-today practical support: During your caregiving activities, you may be so busy that you feel your own household is falling apart. Having a family or community social support group who can help you with your child care, grocery shopping, or house cleaning can greatly reduce the stress of trying to accomplish everything on your to do list on your own.
How do I increase my social connectedness?
The below action items are the foundation to creating healthy, supportive, social connectedness. You may need to focus on one or more areas if you are struggling with maintaining social connections.
Meeting People: If you have limited social connectedness because your activities keep you busy and isolated, you may need to get creative in how you meet people. Perhaps you live in a remote area or have limited time. If so, the computer is a 24-7 accessible tool where you can meet people to chat with or find online caregiver group supports. If the computer is not how you like to interact, you may need to find a way to set aside a block of time each week where you can join some form of social group or activity.
Asking for Help: If you are the type of person who tries to do it all alone, people in your circles may not realize that you are struggling. They will need you to come to them when you have hit your limit. It may feel like a sense of failure to have to ask, but know that by allowing others to help you, you are giving them an opportunity to see how good it feels to help someone else.
Be Open to Sharing: Having many people around you does not necessarily mean that you have or are maintaining healthy social connectedness. In order to get the most out of any relationship, you need to build trust and respect. Being open to sharing how you feel is a great way to make heartfelt connections with others. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you give permission to others to do the same.
Caregiving is one of the most important jobs you have to do and our communities rely on you. Never feel that you have to do it alone. Whether through family, community, or caregiver support groups, there are people around you who want to support you and once you have developed healthy social connectedness, you may find that you are able to do more with the time that you have.
Learn more about how Elizz Caregiver Services can help provide the social and emotional support you need.