Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Through My Care Giver Eyes - Isolation

There are a few emotions related to care giving that I never anticipated. And some of these emotions have changed who I am as a person.

One is social isolation.

The short version is this: as the elderly person's scope narrows, the care giver's scope can also narrow.

As I mentioned previously, it is not uncommon to find the social connections, hobbies, physical abilities and health of the elderly narrow resulting in a very home bound life. Sometimes keeping up socially is "just too much trouble" for the elderly. And if this happens it can impact the care giver as well.

I have been a social person most of my life. Projecting my life into my retirement ... I anticipated many things that would keep me outside the home. I was never one to gain energy from being at home or time alone.

For example, here are activities I could joyfully predict would fill my life with if there were no constraints.

Tai Chi
Knitting Groups (I attend only one - there are three.)
Book Discussion Groups
Exercise - walking, Curves, Yoga
Visiting friends
Art classes at the local community college
Day trips
Vacations and Travel
Cat and Dog Shows
Crafts and Craft Shows
Volunteer activities at local animal shelters or wild life center
Light hiking
Dog park visits with my grand babies
Beach trips with friends
Exhibits - live in the Washington Baltimore corridor - there is a lot to do

If you examine this partial list carefully, most take place outside the home.

My reality now is that being "around the house" is necessary if you want to know what is going on and to assist with certain tasks. Being "around" is what Mom seems to need as well. When I am gone, she "forgets" where I am, she frets, she waits, she worries ...

So I have tried to find ways to develop pastimes and hobbies that keep me at home, but keep me isolated. They all tended to be the kinds of activities that would appeal to a hermit, not a social butterfly.

My activities look alot like this ...
Knitting, weaving, spinning
Ipad games
Pod Casts
Reading - Audio books
Dog sitting
House keeping - Decluttering
Inviting friends to our house

I enjoy these all activities, but the list is much shorter, and it is more solitary. I have managed to hold onto my Tuesday morning knitting group time away from the house. But knitting group is a single social event in a great waste land of solitary activities.

Despite everything I have said to this point, I am NEVER really alone. Mom, my husband, my kids, my granddogs ... they pretty much fill my life. I am grateful for them. But I have grown to greatly value my alone time. For example, driving to pick up my grand dogs is one such alone activity I truly enjoy. Just me with my thoughts (and thousands of Washington Baltimore drivers - but they don't count.) When Mom asks if she can go with me, I usually tell her no. I feel bad because she could use some time out of the house as well, but I need that time for me. My walks (infrequent as of late) are another alone time that I cherish. I used to enjoy walking with my husband. Now walking alone is more satisfying. Crazy as it sounds, if I could take a week's vacation by my self - I would be in heaven.

Some solitary activities are desired, others are not.

The person writing this blog post today is very different the person who started on the care giving journey 5 years ago. I am a person with limited ability and energy to give. I used to think there was no bottom to my giving nature. There is. I value my alone time more now than I ever did before. I find my alone time to be a precious commodity. I am a person who experienced great disappointment and loss in this journey and it has changed me. Solitary time is sometimes more rewarding than all the social and familial activities that I once enjoyed.

Contractions? Maybe.

It all comes down to an isolation that I didn't seek out but accept as part of my role - my care giver role. Someday that role will disappear. It will be interesting to see if the current changes to my nature, my personality, remain.

I believe that some life experiences mark you, change you, permanently.

I feel changed.


  1. You've adapted...and new habits are just as hard to bread as old ones... Personally, I think if your nature is outgoing you will eventually go back, at least partially, to your old ways.

  2. Life is such a process, there is always change. I am happy I can't predict what is ahead. If may be a happy surprise, if not, well I can wait for bad news. You are doing a great job keeping your balance!

  3. One - my son's MIL lives in Columbia Maryland. Just noticed that.

    Two - I went through his with my mom - I've told you.

    Now I have my daughter and GS living here - and I know just what you mean - I had that list too - of all the things I wanted to do in retirement - and now - I can't do them - because I have to do other things.

    I understand. Gotta have faith.


  4. I believe I'm maybe more of a loner than you are, and have always HAD TO HAVE my solitary time. I love, more than anything, spending time with family and friends, but interspersed somewhere, needs to be some solitary time - usually a walk.

    I was a caregiver only for a short while, when my mother became terminally ill. She was always so apologetic, and felt bad that she needed our help. She died three years ago tomorrow, and I miss her terribly. I'm thankful for every minute I spent with her, but her illness didn't impact my life the way yours has been impacted.

    My mom didn't live with me, and I was still able to have my own life, and my own home. I hope that you make the effort to take time for yourself -it's important. Good luck on this journey.

  5. Oh boy I know where you are coming from.
    I was a caregiver to my Mom with alzheimers and parkinsosns. She was attached to the hip and I took her every where with me. I had kids and they needed outings. I could not just sit so I grabbed her, put her into a wheel chair and away we went.When she finally reposed, I felt a great overwhelming freedom from excess weight, lifting from my soul.My job was done.
    But now I was well into knitting and knitting is like a
    You tend to go into your head more and this is where you live now.
    lol I now enjoy blogging to people more than going out but
    Socializing is good So go out and enjoy.

  6. I just wrote about this today! The narrowing of scope in my own life. That was not something I expected. My own activities have become limited b/c as soon as I commit to something, one of my parents have an issue and I have to drop out. so I just don't join things anymore, and it has changed me too. I think that's where some of the joy has gone...I used to work, be more engaged w/ other people. Now, like you, when I have the opportunity, I just want to be alone. It's the oddest thing. I, too, pray that when my folks are gone, I will regain some of my old self. I'm afraid I won't.


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