Just caught some stats from across the pond,
- Research by Sense has shown that up to 50% of disabled people will be lonely on any given day…
- A report by Carers UK revealed that 8 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one.
That’s right, half of people with special needs experience loneliness in the course of a day. But on top of that, 80% of those who care for them feel lonely or isolated – and care giving is cited as the source of the emotion.
We get that here. Care giving wipes out spontaneity, for one thing. A friend calls and says, “Hey, wanna go down to the bar and watch the game?” and all you can say is “I can’t” or, at best, “Well, I can watch the first quarter but then have to get home.”
Social life withers because the needs of the people in our care keep us pinned down with tasks or plain old being “on watch, just in case.”
When some neighbors invited us to join them around a fire pit on a cool evening, Melissa and I had to take turns. One of us stayed in to watch our son, the other socialized, then we switched. We couldn’t have fun as a couple.
And many folks are uncomfortable coming into a care giving environment, and friends or family who are willing can come only so often without being turned into exhausted, lonely care givers themselves.
We just enjoyed a great weekend. A childhood friend (of Tim’s) and his wife spent two days here as part of their drive around America. They didn’t ask much of us – in fact, they were clear that they wanted to see us, not go sightseeing around Sioux Falls.
So we relaxed and shared great memories and ate and laughed and talked about what was on our hearts and minds and… were anything but lonely. It was wonderful.
Our son with autism, Joey, was his usual self, staying on the periphery until he was comfortable with the strangers. You can see the “I’m not sure about this” posture in this picture. But notice that he’s not detached – he’s looking right into the camera (eye contact is elusive when autism is in the house). Melissa (middle) is obviously not feeling lonely, stressed or like a caregiver for the moment. (Note: being a caregiver doesn’t mean you can’t be cute, too.)
The point is that any and all of you who know families in care giving mode – and by that I don’t mean just with autism, but Alzheimer’s, chronic illness, aged parents, disability and just about any situation that can confine one person and others to provide care – have great power to intrude on loneliness and isolation.
YOU are a gift. Yeah, it’s great when a neighbor clears my driveway in winter. That saves me some stress and strain. But even greater is time to laugh and talk and BS about stuff. All of that human social glue that care giving dries up, you can spill afresh by your time with caregivers and those in our care.
And don’t forget the goatherds. They get lonely, too.