Feeling Lonely When You're Not Alone

Lynette Whiteman

Feeling Lonely When You're Not Alone

Lynette Whiteman
I’m happy that lately the issue of loneliness has been bubbling up and is being talked about. I was thrilled to see that the UK appointed a “Minister of Loneliness” and would love to see this type of movement in the US as well.

For the past year, I have been leading a task force in my home town to decrease loneliness in people who live in age restricted adult communities. We are creating a “Senior Ambassador” program to reach people who may fall through the cracks and have no social connections.

The point I make (stamp my feet about) in every meeting I attend is that although caregivers are still living with someone, that doesn’t mean they aren’t lonely!! In fact, living with a spouse or a parent that you can’t communicate with on a meaningful level is probably one of the loneliest feelings you can have.

I used to try to make small talk with my mom during dinner. The conversation would go something like this:

Me: So, how was your day?

Mom: Same as yesterday.

Me: So, did you hear from anyone today?

Mom: No

Me: So, anything interesting in the news (she reads the paper and watches TV news all day)

Mom: No, same as yesterday

Me: How do you like dinner?

Mom: It’s fine

Me: I remember you made great roast chicken, you were a great cook.

Mom: Hmmmm

And on and on we went. I totally realize this is part of her illness and although she was never a “Chatty Cathy”, this is a change in her personality. I also came to realize that this chit chat was probably stressing her out a bit and it was stressing me out to try and come up with better questions. Our interactions now are limited to checking in with her to make sure everything is okay. I need to let her know that I’m home and she is safe.

In short, I miss my mom. Most of the time we spend together is spent is silence and that silence is deafening.

I am so lucky though, I still am able to work at a job that I love. My work gives my life meaning and my co-workers are my family members. My job provides me with rich social interactions and time to talk about what’s going on in the world, what was on TV last night and plenty of opportunities to laugh.

However, for those caregivers who are full-time and are home all day with someone who is uncommunicative, those opportunities are lost and it is LONELY! My hope is that when we talk about loneliness as an epidemic in this country, we do not for a second forget about caregivers. Yes, they are not technically alone if they live with someone, but that does not mean they are any less lonely and they have a great need for social connection and support to ease this loss.

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Well said Lynette!!

CathyJ

Lynette...I so understand your statement about I miss my mom. That is the worst part of her Alzheimer's..having her body here with me but not her all the time. I treasure the new memories we are making and love, love, love her so dearly. But, there are times when I just need/want my mom and that grief is so powerful.\r\n\r\nAnd, you are so right about not forgetting caregivers who are at home 24/7 with their caree. It is a different kind of lonely and it can be debilitating at times. I appreciate your sharing the importance of remembering to talk about loneliness and how it impacts caregivers.