Getting support from family and friends
Having caring responsibilities can put a strain on your relationships with family and friends. However in some instances, you can become closer too. We offer guidance and tips on how to develop closer ties and suggest ways to get further support through forming new friendships.
Many people find that caring can take over your life and that friends can gradually slip off the radar. The reasons for this can be varied and complicated.
It may help to identify why you’ve lost contact and then look for positive ways to reconnect. Sometimes it’s hard to reconnect over existing difficult circumstances, so look for common ground such as shared interests from past experience.
Even if you are unable to meet in person, there are many ways to strike up the friendship again either online via social media and email, or by letter or phone. Sharing photos can also be a lovely way to break the ice and can lead to interesting discussion.
It is very common to feel adrift from others. Sometimes family members are not fully aware of how you feel cut off and what you’re going through. It might be helpful to gently remind them how much you would value their support or company from time to time.
Letting them know how much you miss them could be a nice way of opening the conversation. Also see ‘I feel isolated; friends have disappeared’ in our relationships section.
A useful tool that has helped many families share caring responsibilities is the app, Jointly. This app enables you to keep in touch with family and friends and keep up to date over the changing needs of those being cared for.
It’s a practical way of keeping track of tasks that need to be done and helpfully it can be a clear measure of the onus that may be upon one person’s shoulders in particular. Find out more about the helpful app designed by carers for carers.
The family dynamic can also be challenging. It is hard not to feel upset or frustrated when you feel as though you are being left to it alone. If these feelings are building up, it’s important to seek support. See ‘Other family members don’t understand how much I’m doing’ on our relationships page.
It’s also common to feel like you have lost your identity when you have been immersed in a caring role, especially over many years.
It might be helpful to list all the interests you enjoy, such as reading or writing, and see if you could join an online course or group to give yourself a break from your caring responsibilities, as well as a chance to know yourself again and meet others.
We run regular online Share and Learn sessions which provide a safe space to try out new activities from the comfort of your own home. They are free and range from dance and yoga to poetry and handicrafts, each led by a qualified instructor or facilitator.
To connect with other carers, many people find our forum helpful as it can provide a source of support from people who know what you’re going through, as well as good ideas and recommendations if you have a query, concern or question. Some carers will also often know which pitfalls to avoid when you’re approaching a new situation. You can post on the forum as soon as you’ve signed up for Carers UK membership which is free.
There are many online communities and activities that have sprung up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These can open up possibilities that you may not have considered before, from learning a new language, to dance, yoga and card games. Many of these are also very affordable or provided at a nominal cost.
Another way to meet other carers, is through local groups and carer networking services. Some offer coffee and cake meet ups and an opportunity to meet others through social activities. A good place to start to find these services is our local directory or try contacting your local council or local trust (in Northern Ireland).
If you’re going through a tough time, turn to kind and supportive people who will be there to help you through it. If none of your friends or family members are particularly good listeners or empathetic, turn to an organisation.
At Carers UK, we have trained Care Listening Volunteers who are here to offer emotional support through our Listening Support Service. Condition specific charities will also have helplines where you can talk to someone or offer services that can help you pair up with others to gain support and friendship.
It can be very stressful to consider what would happen if you suddenly became unwell or unable, for some reason, to continue caring. To be prepared and for peace of mind, it is a good idea to put some thought into creating a contingency plan.
We can take you through the steps, one consideration at a time, and help you devise your own tailored plan.