As caregivers, our loved one needs frequent and consistent assistance.
According to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, overburdened social ties can undermine health. The chronic isolation and strain experienced by caregivers will take an increasing toll over time on allostatic load, blood pressure, physical health and mortality risk. However, adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated counterparts. The benefits of social ties include those relationships created and maintained online. Your network of fellow caregivers is an enormous health advantage. Not only will these caregivers understand the struggle of an overburdened social relationship, but also they will be able to provide health related information and influence your positive health habits.
1. Social ties reduce the impact of stress
As caregivers, we often experience chronic stress, which increases blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones, decelerating allostatis. Social ties facilitate positive stress management techniques and generate feelings of comfort.
2. Social ties may enhance feelings of personal control
For most of us, “caregiver” translates to: “being overwhelmed with the responsibility of another.” Rarely is the role predicted, prepared for, or wanted. Disease, disability, aging, atypical needs and chronic illness leave us feeling powerless. But through words of encouragement and understanding, our caregiver network leaves us feeling supported. Life seems a bit more manageable. Former caregivers got through it—so can we.
3. Those with the fewest financial resources and social ties need assistance the most.
The programs in place for caregivers are few and far between. The FMLA benefits those who receive care, “but it also may be financially prohibitive for caregivers who do not have an employed spouse or enough savings to support them through the time off work.” Virtually the only way to cope is, well, virtually. The social ties fostered online are the caregiver’s lifeline—without respite care, we only have the presence of an online community to get us through.
4. The larger the social network and the larger the pool of confidants, the more social support and health-relevant information.
Online social ties provide us with access to a limitless group of caregivers that have overcome, or are currently facing, the same obstacles we face. By sharing caregiving experiences, you and your community are creating an open forum on the best ways to cope and care for yourself and your loved one.
5. Enhanced social ties can be viewed as preventative medicine.
If policy makers were to focus more on enhancing a caregiver’s social ties, we wouldn’t face the same health risks as we do now. Depression and isolation wouldn’t run rampant among caregivers. We would have support in coping with chronic stress. Our bodies wouldn’t face the same wear and tear. Our mortality risk would diminish. While policy makers struggle to promote social ties, we can skip to the chase: log in, start sharing, start growing and start healing.
The fastest way to help caregivers? Give them an online space of their own.