Sad lonely Woman in depression with flying hair. Young unhappy girl sitting and hugging her knees. Depressed teenager. Colorful vector illustration in flat cartoon style

In high school, I hated when one of my friends would start dating someone and vanish, only to reappear when they needed a shoulder to cry on. They might have been awesome friends when they were single, but I stopped bothering with them pretty quickly. Why would I invest in a relationship with someone who didn’t seem to really care about me?

Sometimes it seems like my friends vanish when I need them the most. Or maybe I just don’t have time for them anymore. Or I’m always cancelling because, honestly, I’m exhausted and I’d rather just do laundry and go to bed. But as a caregiver, it’s all too easy to stop being a friend and become a list of needs. The truth is: you need someone to vent to. You need someone to help you run errands. You need someone to be around when you need them and completely understand when you vanish for a while.

Does it feel like your friends vanished when you became a caregiver? Here’s how to stay in touch.

Embrace short messages

When someone pours their heart out in a long letter, it can be a little overwhelming. Some of my friends and I send each other dozens of nonsensical texts every week. We send each other quick emails or stay in touch over chat. These types of “slow” conversations mean I can respond whenever I have a minute to reply.

Social media can be awesome

Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like I can peek into people’s lives, even when I haven’t seen them in months. That means I can reach out to them with ‘I saw you just brought your kids to visit your mom for the weekend. How’s she doing? I hope it was a great trip – the kids are adorable.’ rather than the standard ‘Long time no see. How are things?’ Use social media to help start a meaningful conversation and keep it going.

Jealousy

It’s normal to feel a twinge of jealousy when you see your friends doing something fun. People’s social media posts are a way of sharing their life with you. It’s an easy way to let people know what’s going on in your life, what’s important to you, and what you’re thinking about. If someone is posting a lot to social media, they’re inviting you into their life – don’t be afraid to take the invitation. Convinced that a certain someone is a braggart? Hide their posts.

Keep in touch

Don’t wait for people to reach out to you. Sure, it can be hard to put yourself out there, but it’s even harder to deal with the inevitable disappointment.

Sometimes things are just too overwhelming. It’s okay to set up a vacation responder or post that you’re going to be MIA for a week or two. That way people know you’re not just ignoring them. Remember not to vanish for too long – so many people tend to isolate themselves right when they need their friends the most.

I once had a friend stop responding to my emails, so I figured she was upset with me and let her be. I reached out a few years later, only to find out she’d stopped talking to everyone after her best friend’s cancer came back and she lost her job. I wish I’d known what was going on so I could have been there for her. Staying in at least sporadic contact keeps even distant friends a little closer. You’d be surprised how much they care.

Let people know what you need

It feels like people are always offering to help – and then never actually doing anything. Ask people for specific things. Be realistic – not everyone is going to be willing to take on big jobs, but they might be happy to do smaller things. I used to regularly pick up ten or so things at the store for a neighbor. When another neighbor asked for a cart load, I didn’t make the offer again.

Everyone has their own list of obligations, so sometimes it can be tricky lining up schedules – when I’ve needed someone at a certain time I’ve had to reach out to a bunch of people before I finally got a ‘yes.’ Facebook can help with this – you can post and ask who would be willing to come by for an hour on Wednesday nights, rather than asking a bunch of people individually. Sometimes I’ve been surprised by who offers to lend a hand!

I try to not ask too much of any one person. I have plenty of experience feeling unappreciated, so I make sure I let people know how much their help means to me.

You’re not just a caregiver

It might feel like you’re life is all doctors appointments and insurance paperwork, but that’s not who you are. Your friends love you, not your role as a caregiver. It’s okay to vent and share what’s going on in your life, but remember that it’s important to talk about other stuff, too.

Know your boundaries

I have quite a snarky streak, but I’m a firm believer that it’s not funny if it’s offensive. The tricky part is that there’s no consensus on what’s offensive. Is it okay to crack a joke during a crisis? Are certain topics off-limits? Let people know. A simple ‘I know you’re not trying to upset me, but that was too soon/went too far’ usually does the trick.

People are awkward

Many people are uncomfortable with new things. When someone is bumbling around something they’re not familiar with or not sure what to do, help them out. You might have to forgive a few ill advised comments or awkward moments, it just comes with the territory.

Bring them along

One-on-one time with a friend might not be possible, but you can still be social. Don’t be afraid of letting your friends know you’ll be bringing the person you care for along with you. When someone has serious mobility issues and money is tight, it’s not always feasible to get out of the house. Know your limitations – and respect them.

It’s okay to invite someone over

Sometimes you can’t make it out of the house. That’s fine. Invite people over, even with the mess. Maybe ordering pizza and watching a movie isn’t my top choice, but what I really want to do is see my friends. You might be surprised by how easy it is to get people to pick up ingredients and cook dinner at your place. Or maybe that’s just my special skill.

Written by Cori Carl
As Director, Cori is an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for people providing care.

Related Articles

Sizing Up the Decisions of Older Adults

Sizing Up the Decisions of Older Adults

Adult Protective Services agencies in every state receive reports of possible neglect, self-neglect, abuse or exploitation of older people and other...

Popular categories

Finances
Burnout
After Caregiving
Housing
Relationships
Finding Meaning
Planning
Dying
Finding Support
Work
Grief

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts

17 Comments

  1. You can’t wait for them to come to you, out of sight, out of mind, you have to keep in touch and somehow find time to have lunch, coffee, or go for a walk. It’s important because someday you WILL get your life back and have time for them. Maybe you think, the heck with ’em, I will make a whole bunch of jolly new friends – ok, good luck with that. 🙁 It can happen.

    Reply
    • Especially when I have always been there for them no matter what however when I needed them when my mother was dying nothing

      Reply
  2. It’s easy to lose touch with friends as a caregiver especially if you work full time. You really have to pick and choose your free time.

    Reply
  3. I’ve lost many friends from being a caregiver. They always say to call them if I needed help but it’s all bullshit. False promises of help.
    Who needs friends, my only friend is being an extreme loner from now being able to get out of hell house from being a full time unpaid caregiver for both of my parents for 21yrs.

    Reply
  4. I’ve been a Caregiver for both my Parents since 2010 , Jus Recently Have had To Move my Dad in because age is Bed Ridden Now & Hope Soon He Will Be Back to Him Self In a Few More Months

    Reply
  5. Thanks for this important article.

    I was kicked out of a local writing group because I could not make it to all of the monthly meetings. I am a sometimes-overwhelmed parent-caregiver, and that was definitely my reason. But I am also a professional writer, an achiever, and a contributor. It was amazing to me that some members could not connect the dots about the complexities of my life providing total care for my child.

    Ironically, the lead decision-maker in the group (who seemed very evolved) then inadvertently posted a note about me–on my own blog–to another member, saying how selfish I was. Whoops! And REALLY?! Walk in my shoes for a few days, with a profoundly disabled and medically fragile child (and his busy toddler brother) at home, and see how YOU do keeping all your extracurricular appointments.

    The lack of even an attempt at empathy from certain people continues to boggle my mind. The good news is that leaving the group was truly all for the best, so that I could channel my precious remaining creative energy in more rewarding ways.

    I have learned to befriend only those who understand that I do some of the hardest and most important work in the world for my son. Or if they don’t understand, they ask and listen…not assume and judge. We devoted caregivers deserve that much.

    Reply
  6. Sadly when my mother developed dementia and my father’s health was also failing, I as primary caregiver needed some support. It was not to be found. A friend of 37 years who lived nearby just disappeared. She was kept apprised of developments by a mutual friend of ours and never came to see me even when my mother was in Hospice and when she died. At that point, my efforts to remain friends ceased. It was a painful, yet apparently necessary loss. Family would come to visit my parents, but were not at all supportive of me and remain unsupportive now that both parents have passed. I don’t know how you get over that kind of loss in addition to what you already feel. I have friends now who are going through similar and I always make an effort to let them know they have support from me because I know what it is like to be without. I guess the best we can do is try to learn from it and do what you can for others who are going through it. My heart goes out to those who are suffering because I have been there myself. The Alzheimer’s support group really helped. I had to make myself go and I was always glad I did.

    Reply
  7. I liked the article, however my situation goes a little further. I have had to move away from all my friends to get the medical care my husband needs for his TBI. I keep in touch with friends via Facebook, but I am craving physical friends in iour new town and don’t know how to just make it happen 🙁 I am very loney

    Reply
  8. I found out that a friend wasn’t a real friend. He lives only a couple blocks away and I found him to be a great support until my patient got gravely ill and he said he didn’t want to continue our friendship because I had become “too negative” and that I needed to “quit complaining”, saying my negativity was what was causing things to go bad in my life. I really needed a friend at that time and got really hurt by this. Now I have no friends left at all because they can’t handle stressful situations apparently. It’s hard to find people that are willing to be there for you when you have a lot of stress in your life. I learned that good friends are nearly impossible to find and keep. 🙁

    Reply
  9. I wish I had known about this a long time ago.But I never thought to look.My Dad lived with us for 12 years and was diagnosed with kidney failure 4years ago.But in March 2013, the disease and over all wellbeing became worse.He died June 20,2014.He was my full time job and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.I am still trying to readjust to a new normal.After raising 3 kids,care giver to my Mom 15 years ago before she passed,taking care of my Dad,nursing my husband through a life threatening illness,and taking care of our pets(just lost one of our cats May2014 to cancer)I am right now for the first time not a full time caregiver.I am still grieving the loss of our beloved cat and my wonderful Dad and slowly progressing to a new me.I hope others can find this site and I will be sure to pass it along if I know of someone who might need it.This is great, you don’t have to leave your home for it,which you all know is usually impossible if not difficult.Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. The title caught me, and there were some good ideas, but it just seems like I need different suggestions than these. With my husband 1st in the hospital & then in rehab, I needed on hand help with everything, very quickly and on top of that I was overwhelmed and too unsure to ask from those at my church who are “friends”. My best friend is a true friend I vent to, but she can’t help me with the physical things I have to get done. I just did 4 bags of laundry, did a complete cleaning overhaul on our apartment and am now getting ready to bring him home.

    Reply
  11. Thank you so much! I have been caring for my Mother for two years now, and yes, it seems my friends have vanished. I have never felt so ‘all alone’. You gave my hope today, just knowing, someone out there truly understands. Thank you!

    Reply
  12. I was excited about the Title of this article, only to be disappointed. The concepts make sense, however by the time I realize that I’ve isolated myself, it’s too late. An then the energy and effort required to reach out, catch-up and check-in with friends is not only daunting, it’s overwhelming… even paralyzing. Venting is important and can push friends away, but a times that’s all I seem able to handle. Other people’s drama is too much for me. A support group would be wonderful, but there aren’t any in this remote region. So, this article just reminded me of my inability to connect with others, of which I am already well aware.

    Reply
    • Hi Jill, this website has online support groups, so if you’re looking to connect with people who understand what you’re going through, you’re in the right place.

      Reply
  13. Thank you for your concerns not just for the people that are being cared for but also the caregivers.
    My brother had to quit his job and put his life on hold to take care of our mom who has lbd. Also my 46 year old sister who has down sybdrom. It is a full time job and I talk to my brother at least three times a day. I am so glad he uses me to vent too. Caregivers are very special people, but they would not be able to do what they do without venting to someone. We always had a very special bond, but it really has grown since he quit his job. There is not much else I can do for him since I’m a truck driver.
    When this is over I truly believe he needs to take some classes and become a full time caregiver.
    Thank you again for your work to educate us, and to support us.

    Reply
  14. Absolute truth…U find out who your true friends are when you become a caregiver. I had 2 (who I thought) were close friends/co-workers who used to ask about how my parents were doing all the time and feigned concern. Well when my father got very ill and passed away now that my mother lives with me-poof! My true friends are friends I had from years ago that have stuck by me. Thank God for them.

    Reply

Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.

%d bloggers like this: