By Beth Rush, Guest Blogger
Western culture celebrates independence almost to a fault. To many Americans, being self-reliant represents strength of character. Of all the cultural myths you grow up hearing, this one couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s rarely a good idea to go it alone, whether you’re climbing Mount Everest or teaching your child how to read.
Being a caregiver is incredibly hard work. Although it’s a personal responsibility, that doesn’t mean you should isolate yourself and take on the full burden of a loved one’s care. A team is much stronger than a single person, regardless of their energy level. Here’s why growing your support network is a must for caregivers of disabled adults.
Why Is Social Support Important for Caregivers?
Many caregivers give up their jobs, social lives, and personal hobbies to take care of disabled loved ones. If you’re a full-time caregiver, you may feel like you’ve lost yourself. It’s incredibly challenging to take this journey alone, especially over the span of many years.
Even a little support can make a world of difference. Simply talking about what you’re going through can relieve the emotional strain you feel. Pursuing your own interests for a few hours will make you a happier, healthier person. If you want to take good care of a loved one, you have to take good care of yourself first.
Unfortunately, many people never ask for help. Here are a few reasons why you might be holding back from getting extra support:
- You might feel guilty asking for help.
- You don’t want to share the work of caregiving with someone else because it’s difficult.
- It’s too challenging to open up about what you’re going through.
- You can’t afford the cost of professional care.
- You live too far away from friends and family who could offer free support.
Building Personal Support Networks
This really comes down to a question about boundaries. Regardless of your situation, it’s unrealistic to think you can care for another person’s needs 24/7 without a break or any support of your own. Eventually, you’re going to reach a place of physical and emotional burnout.
Building a support network is an act of love for the people you’re supporting. Here are a few ways you can start:
- Search the internet for support groups in your area.
- Look for both broad and specific groups.
- If you’re part of a faith community, see if your place of worship runs a support group.
- Call local health centers for information on support groups.
If you aren’t able to meet with a support group in person, plan an uplifting phone call or look for a group that meets virtually. You can message new contacts on Facebook and find encouraging groups on Instagram. Today’s tools bring so many opportunities for connecting to others, regardless of distance and time.
Emotional Support for Caregivers
Every caregiver has an individual situation with specific resources and struggles. Take some time today to consider yours and ask how a support network could help you. What do you need? Is there a creative way to connect with others throughout your day?
Research shows that loneliness can negatively impact your health and even kill you. That means joining a support group could literally be a matter of life and death. The healthier and more emotionally stable you are, the better you’ll be able to support and love the people you care for.
You deserve care just as much as the other people in your household. When you are happiest, your loved ones will be, too. Take the leap and ask for help. The worst someone can say is no – and even a little support can bring a sense of balance to your life.
Beth is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She writes about mental health, nutrition and education. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs with her dog and trying out new recipes.