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Social relationships

Caring can place a big strain on families. Carers sometimes say that friends and family disappear once caring begins. This can lead to feelings of isolation and resentment.

Feeling disconnected from friends and family

It's easy to become isolated when caring around the clock, especially when you feel your relationships with family members or friends might be suffering. Unfortunately this feeling of being out of touch can come at a time when you need the support of others most.

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With the demands placed on your time, it can be hard to cope should support slip away when it is really needed. We spoke to carers about this and the steps they have taken to cope.

Karen cared for her grandmother. She says:

“Friends and family soon get fed up of asking you to go places or visit them to be told the same thing – ‘I can't because there's nobody to watch my nan’, or ‘I can't because my nan has an appointment somewhere’, or you simply say no because you are so tired or you need to catch up with chores, shopping etc."

Common amongst many carers is the idea that seeing a loved one suffering is just too upsetting for some people to cope with. Lucy cares for her mum. She says:

“When my mum had a stroke years ago all her friends disappeared. Their excuse was it was hard to see her like that and it was hard to know what to say.”

How to cope

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But how do you cope when it feels like friends and family are drifting away? We asked carers on our forum and Facebook page to offer their suggestions. Many suggested reminding family and friends that they could just as easily find themselves in the same predicament. Others said that if family and friends couldn’t accept them and the person they were looking after as they are, then it’s their loss.

Try asking for a small amount of help –  with shopping or staying with the person you look after for a short time to allow you to pop out. By telling them what a difference it has made, it might result in them offering to help out again. It often feels easier to ask for help when you have a physical ailment but emotional pain is just as relevant and the stress it can cause can leady to physical problems if you don't deal with it.

If conflicts are causing problems in your family, there are various ways of seeking help. Try to find out what is really behind it. Are they unsure how to help? Upset or angry? Discovering the truth will hopefully help you to understand their behaviour and enable you to work out what kind of support, if any, you can expect from them in the future.

Don’t forget to explain how you feel. Take the opportunity to tell them how their behaviour affects you. If, after speaking, you do not reach a resolution, or if you feel you can’t confront them, consider discussing the matter with someone else in your family, circle of friends or community who has an independent perspective and may be able to look at the situation in an impartial way. It could also be useful to talk to other carers who will know what you are going through and understand how hard it can be. Consider joining Carers UK’s website forum.

Help from your doctor

You may find your doctor can offer some useful advice and sources of support. See our section on notifying your GP for more details. They may recommend ways you can find out about local groups and activities in your area that could help you meet others and reduce your sense of isolation. 

They may also be able to refer you on to other sources of help such as mediation or counselling.


Mediation is increasingly being used to resolve family problems. A mediator will act in an independent, impartial way to help all parties try to understand the other’s point of view. They should act in a non-judgemental way and confidentiality is extremely important. They will not make any decisions but will try to get the parties to reach their own resolution and understanding of the situation. In some areas there are community mediation services which are free of charge. Not all of them undertake family mediation so you will need to make enquiries. There are also private mediation services which make a charge for mediation.


Counselling is also worth considering. It's important not to bottle up your feelings especially if the tension or loneliness you're feeling is affecting your health. Counselling may help you understand your emotions and help you to work with other members of the family to resolve the issues.

Free online help

For support with developing emotional resilience and improving your sense of wellbeing, you could try out our free online course. It covers a range of topics from dealing with loss to coping with mood changes: You can also dip in and out of modules that interest you if you are pushed for time.

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