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Caring for someone with a progressive condition or chronic illness can be as all-consuming as caring for a newborn, with one critical difference. Babies require less of your time and attention as they grow and develop, while your loved one will probably require more as his or her physical and cognitive abilities deteriorate. You have less time to see friends, and friends may pull away. Perhaps they find the changes in your loved one disconcerting or they feel awkward or afraid. They may not know how to react to the changes in their friend or what to say to you. Perhaps they’re unaware that diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s are not contagious.
At first you may not notice, but as the holidays approach, you may find you’re receiving fewer invitations to events and gatherings than in years past, and you may be unsure about attending the events in which you are included. Here are some tips that can help you manage these delicate social issues:
When you get only a few invitations, you may be tempted to accept all that come your way. Before you do, make sure the event fits with your loved one’s changing capabilities. The loud, noisy cocktail party your wife once loved may be overwhelming to her now; a small dinner party or brunch with close friends or immediate family might be easier for her to manage.
If you aren’t capable of hosting a gathering, perhaps a friend or family member will host an event on your behalf that will give you and your loved one the social stimulation you need.
You may find that you’re less comfortable with your old friends now—it can be frustrating to be around people who don’t understand your or your loved one’s needs. But you don’t have to resign yourself to social isolation or feeling shunned. As your and your loved one's needs and priorities change, you may find that you’re more comfortable spending time with those who understand what you’re going through. If you’ve met other caregivers, consider reaching out to arrange getting together.
Finally, organizations that support your loved one’s illness or condition may offer support groups, social networking opportunities, or events, too. You can find a list of them, as well as caregiver-support agencies and groups, here.
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.