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22 July 2022
Sadly, the number of people struggling with isolation is growing, both nationally and around the world. These people come from all walks of life and backgrounds and are usually not seen, or known about, in their own communities. Below we talk to Tess, a carer in NSW, to hear her story.
Salvos Magazine: Could you share a brief overview of your role as a carer?
Tess: I care for both my parents, who are from a non-English speaking background, as their primary enduring guardian and full-time carer. My father is 95 and my mother is 87. They both live at their home around the corner from my house, and have many serious health conditions, including dementia.
SM: Has being a carer contributed to feelings of social isolation?
T: Yes. Sometimes I feel alienated as the stress it causes and the pressure I carry make me feel as though others don’t understand me. Sometimes I can’t travel or attend social activities, and when having to cancel these, take time off work or take time out for myself from exhaustion, it makes me feel as though others may also judge me as making excuses.
SM: How would you describe what it’s like to be socially isolated?
T: It feels as though your experiences alienate you from the common person and their experiences, and so you are not relating properly to each other. I feel like I may not be maintaining solid friendships due to my attention being constantly interfered with as a carer.
SM: What impact does social isolation have on you mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically?
T: I have experienced periods of depression and absolute burnout a few times throughout the last decade. I have felt intense fear and dread at times, and all this has caused what has been diagnosed as ‘compounded trauma’ from years of high stress caring for my parents. This has recently also manifested physically, causing heart issues and chronic illness. The impact has also been on my husband and daughter. They both experience the stress with me and also suffer as I am absent for such long periods caring for my parents.
SM: What are some of the biggest challenges in your current circumstances?
T: Having to make big decisions for my parents in case of serious illness or crisis. Being always on high alert, that causes increasing stress and constant adrenalin surges, which are not conducive to physical health. My health issues are now impacting my caring role as I need to ‘step back’ from the role to address my health, while my parents’ care needs are increasing dramatically. Other challenges include the language barrier with both of them, and my mother’s dementia, which contributes to all kinds of further challenges with doctors, hospitals and care support.
SM: What help or support would assist you in what you are facing?
T: Time with God and his Word, family and friends providing me either physical or emotional support, and local services to be reliable and responsive.
SM: What would you like people to know about those who are socially isolated?
T: Take time to listen and to try to understand. They could be experiencing a very different world from your own.