A Carer's Heart: A Podcast for Unpaid Carers

Feeling lonely, even when you are not on your own

July 01, 2020 Lynne Bardell Episode 4
A Carer's Heart: A Podcast for Unpaid Carers
Feeling lonely, even when you are not on your own
Chapters
00:00:00
Welcome and brief overview about loneliness as a carer/caregiver
00:02:38
Sharing what has been found in research studies about the effects of loneliness
00:05:45
What steps can we take to reduce our loneliness as carers
00:08:00
Stretching our 'little grey cells' and reading or listening to books
00:09:48
Helping others, while we help ourselves.
00:10:46
Most importantly, you are not alone!
00:11:16
Next week's topic and thank you for listening
A Carer's Heart: A Podcast for Unpaid Carers
Feeling lonely, even when you are not on your own
Jul 01, 2020 Episode 4
Lynne Bardell

It doesn’t matter who you are caring for a partner, a parent or child, loneliness can affect us all at any time.

In this episode, I talk about how we can feel more isolated and lonely, as our lifestyle changes as carers. It can result from having to withdraw from usual activities such as the routine of working and engaging with work colleagues, seeing less of friends, or not being able to carry out hobbies and activities.

I share some evidence from several research studies over the last couple of years, which outlines why it is important to take positive action towards reducing loneliness and then go through some ideas for connecting with likeminded people, such as finding and joining in with local activities, learning a new skill and sharing your wealth of knowledge and skills to benefit others. 

If you have any questions about this episode or have a topic you would like to have included, please contact me at enquiries@acarersheart.com.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

It doesn’t matter who you are caring for a partner, a parent or child, loneliness can affect us all at any time.

In this episode, I talk about how we can feel more isolated and lonely, as our lifestyle changes as carers. It can result from having to withdraw from usual activities such as the routine of working and engaging with work colleagues, seeing less of friends, or not being able to carry out hobbies and activities.

I share some evidence from several research studies over the last couple of years, which outlines why it is important to take positive action towards reducing loneliness and then go through some ideas for connecting with likeminded people, such as finding and joining in with local activities, learning a new skill and sharing your wealth of knowledge and skills to benefit others. 

If you have any questions about this episode or have a topic you would like to have included, please contact me at enquiries@acarersheart.com.

Episode 4 - Wellbeing: “Feeling lonely, even when you are not alone”

Welcome to A Carer's Heart podcast.

 00:02
It doesn't matter whether you're a carer or not, or who you care for, loneliness can affect us all. We can feel more isolated and lonely as our lifestyles change. And this can result from withdrawing from our usual activities, such as going to work and seeing our work colleagues, seeing less of our friends, not being able to carry out normal hobbies and activities. Also, it can feel more lonely because we don't have those shared experiences anymore, or the anticipation of those experiences, that we might have had with our loved ones, such as family holidays or celebrating those special occasions. One of the areas loneliness can stem from is not being able to relate to others on an intimate level and freely express our thoughts and feelings, without fear of rejection or being judged. Such as friends telling us 'make it work for you', or 'just get a carer in, if it's that hard'. Sometimes only spending time away from the house and away from our loved ones is for essential shopping. Which means our social interactions are drastically reduced, even by having chats with people about anything, but nothing to do with caring, can really rejuvenate and lift your spirits. Loneliness can be triggered by a particular event or may develop over time, and we might not necessarily even be aware of it, or the feelings of emotions of being lonely can bring. You can be lonely AND be in a relationship, such as a caring relationship or marriage or partnership. I've been lonely a while in a relationship than I've ever been while I've been on my own. Even if you have a partner, friends, family, loneliness might make you feel that your relationships are meeting your needs, as there is no sense of connection or meaning because your role in that relationship has now changed. You can be in a room filled with people you know, and still have a sense of loneliness. That sense of loneliness can make you feel unloved, unwanted, insecure, or abandoned by those who look up to in love. There are so many emotions, thoughts and feelings that go with loneliness. Let's explore some of those together. Let's think about why it's important to recognise those thoughts and feelings as carers and what steps we can do to change the emotion of loneliness. 

02.38
Now, I'm going to be referring to some research studies, not the boring bit though and I have put all the references in the show notes for you. As human beings, we're hardwired to have a sense of being needed. A study, published in 2015, found that the pressure to be happy and the social pressure not to show any negative emotions, such as with friends or other family members, can really lead to a sense of loneliness. As I mentioned, last week, I will be doing a bonus episode just around 'happiness'. But for now, it's interesting to reflect that another study also showed that if you feel lonely, even though you might participate in activities with other people, a sense of loneliness might not be improved, and you might be more likely to actually want to do things on your own, which of course, in turn, may increase a sense of loneliness, and isolation. The same study reported that the longer-term effects of loneliness can be associated with poor physical health and wellbeing. Another study published in 2019, reflected that there could be an increasing cognitive impairment connected to loneliness and there was a significant association with older age and cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating or making decisions that affect their everyday life. This is important to consider for older caregivers, perhaps caregivers looking after a partner or parent, as well as the longer-term impact for parents caring for a child. 

04:30
On a positive note, the same study reflected that education served as a protective factor for cognitive function. So, we're going to get those little gray cells going! Not being connected to others and having emotions associated with loneliness can lead people to try and drown out and forget how they're feeling with alcohol or drugs. These in themselves can cause us to reject the company of others because it comes along with additional emotions and feelings, such as regret for our actions. Additionally, becoming reliant substances to numb feelings of loneliness can actually increase the chances of feeling stress, anxiety and becoming depressed. If we're very isolated and alone, we might also misunderstand or misinterpret the attention of others, when we're trying to find meaning, when it might not actually be there. Perhaps this could be the attention of a healthcare professional, involved in the care of a loved one. Or perhaps a casual acquaintance showing interest in us. Over the need to find meaning in transit encounters, which is lacking in our day to day lives is unlikely to result in our need to belong, being met. 

05:45
So, what steps can we take to reduce loneliness as carers? Most importantly, feeling lonely is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's a natural response to circumstances and situations and most of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives. There's even a Loneliness Minister in the UK, and the UK government plans to tackle loneliness. So, that's something I'm going to explore further and do a bonus episode on if it's interesting and useful. So, one of the things that we can do is increase contact with individuals who already understand how we're feeling. So, think about joining forums just for carers, such as Carers UK, Caregivers Action Community in the US, and Carer Gateway in Australia. There are numerous forums and support groups covering specific illnesses and diseases such as dementia, autism, or MS. People in these dedicated forums, particularly if the carers, will understand the more in-depth challenges that your loved one faces and you do supporting them. It's also worth making contact with organisations who focused on supporting people who are feeling lonely, such as The Marmarlade Trust, what a lovely name; Let's Talk, Loneliness, and The Help Hub. I'll put links to these in the show notes. If you can, use technology to keep in touch with friends and family, and perhaps set up regular virtual coffee chats. There's a variety of different online conferencing services that you can use such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and I believe Facebook does one as well. So, try them out and see which one works for you and your friends. 

07:31
It's also worth thinking about joining an online group, such as Elefriends. Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be just yourself. They know what it's like to struggle sometimes, and it's a safe place to listen, share and be heard. If you don't have access to a device, sometimes charities can provide them, or your local library will have free sessions for you to use computers. Quite often they'll do sessions on learning how to use them as well, which is really good.

08:00
Now we're going to use a ‘little grey cells’ and stretch the mind. Think about something that you'd like to learn, perhaps a new hobby, or to take a course. Many are free, so search for the topic you're interested in and look for trustworthy resources. A couple I found is the University of the Third Age, and that's for people who are retired, and also Open Learn from the Open University, which I believe are doing free courses at the moment, so, definitely worth looking at both of those. Last week, I did an episode about planning for things for us. So, have a listen to that and there are some tips and tricks for helping you if you're going to take on learning a new subject, a new hobby, or perhaps taking a new course. Reading or listening to audiobooks is another great way of escaping into a new world or learning something new. Again, libraries are a great resource for this and free, but they're also paid resources, such as Kindle, or Audible, so you can listen to the book if you prefer.

09:05
Another opportunity is to connect with neighbours through online groups such as Next Door, where you can find out what people in your street or your local neighbourhood are doing in terms of activities, book clubs, things like that. And also, there are local activities quite often being run through Meetup. So, if you search for Meetup, and then search for your area, you can see what activities are going on. Now I live 5 minutes from the beach, so if I search for that, it could well be that there's a beach cleanup activities, which is very topical at the moment! So, definitely worth looking for things that you can actually go and meet new people and perhaps help your own community. 

09:48
How about getting involved in local volunteering, not all voluntary has to be done in person. Small charities are crying out for people with knowledge and skills to help them. It could be that you have something that would be a perfect fit for a local charity, or even a national charity. Think about the skills and the knowledge that you have, and how you can help others. If research in a local area, you'll probably find you've got a local volunteer and bureau or visit NCVO or Do-it.org for national opportunities. Things like being a trustee, perhaps helping as a treasurer, something where you won't necessarily need to be there, but you can really really bring value to them.  It might seem strange, but random acts of kindness are actually something that it's really really useful to help with promoting positive emotions and moods, to help to negate negative moods and to help with satisfaction with life and fulfilment. 

10:46
The most important thing to remember is although it might feel like it, you are not alone. We are a family of carers and caregivers across the world. We don't leave anyone behind. You just need to that first, tiny, step and reach out. Someone is there waiting to say 'hello'. As I said earlier, I'll put a link to all the resources and the research that I've mentioned in the show notes. So please have a look, and perhaps do some more research if any of these things are of interest to you. 

11:16
Next week's episode is about life and work "Club Sandwich anyone?"  I will be discussing if you're caring for more than one generation, and possibly also working. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you've enjoyed this episode. Remember, if you have any questions or a topic that you'd like to chat about being covered, please contact me at enquiries@acarersheart.com. I hope you can join me next week and remember, what a special thing it is that you do.

References and Resources

Resources :

Marmalade Trust

https://marmaladetrust.org/about-us/

Let’s Talk Loneliness 

https://letstalkloneliness.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwltH3BRB6EiwAhj0IUE-ZqsXJW9yfXenCFlAJPceF1QyhHx0COTKfzYy7PJeIJh4aD2tvJRoClNEQAvD_BwE

Elefriends

https://www.elefriends.org.uk/

Meetup

https://www.meetup.com/

Carers UK forum

https://www.carersuk.org/forum

The Help Hub

https://www.thehelphub.co.uk/

Next Door

https://nextdoor.co.uk/choose_address/

NCVO

https://www.ncvo.org.uk/ncvo-volunteering/i-want-to-volunteer

Do-it.org 

https://do-it.org/

University of the 3rd Age

https://www.u3a.org.uk/

Open Learn

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/spn-courses

Caregiver Action 

https://caregiveraction.org/community 

AARP 

https://search.aarp.org/gss/everywhere?q=caregiving

Family Caregiver Alliance

https://www.caregiver.org/

Carer Gateway Australia

https://forum.carergateway.gov.au/s/?tabset-f7718=2

Support Groups, Australia

https://www.caresearch.com.au/caresearch/tabid/2662/Default.aspx

How to manage lockdown anxiety

https://www.independentage.org/coronavirus/cs-anxiety

Random Acts of Kindness

https://positivepsychology.com/random-acts-kindness/

References:

Zhou, Z., Mao, F., Zhang, W., Towne, S. D., Jr, Wang, P., & Fang, Y. (2019). The Association Between Loneliness and Cognitive Impairment among Older Men and Women in China: A Nationwide Longitudinal Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(16), 2877. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16162877

 

Lara, E., Martín-María, N., De la Torre-Luque, A., Koyanagi, A., Vancampfort, D., Izquierdo, A., & Miret, M. (2019). Does loneliness contribute to mild cognitive impairment and dementia? A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Ageing Research Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2019.03.002 

 

Bastian, B., Koval, P., Erbas, Y., Houben, M., Pe, M., & Kuppens, P. (2015). Sad and Alone: Social Expectancies for Experiencing Negative

Emotions Are Linked to Feelings of Loneliness. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(5), 496–503. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550614568682

 

Queen, T. L., Stawski, R. S., Ryan, L. H., & Smith, J. (2014). Loneliness in a day: Activity engagement, time alone, and experienced emotions. Psychology and Aging, 29(2), 297–305. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036889

 

Sermat, V. (1978). Sources of loneliness. Essence: Issues in the Study of Ageing, Dying, and Death, 2(4), 271–276.

 

Baumeister, R.F. & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.

 

Welcome and brief overview about loneliness as a carer/caregiver
Sharing what has been found in research studies about the effects of loneliness
What steps can we take to reduce our loneliness as carers
Stretching our 'little grey cells' and reading or listening to books
Helping others, while we help ourselves.
Most importantly, you are not alone!
Next week's topic and thank you for listening