Overcoming loneliness as a carer

Bryan is a carer for his wife. He talks with us about the loneliness that set in, after his wife had to move to a care home. But encouragingly, he talks about how he overcame his loneliness, sharing his own top tips along the way. Bryan's story is supplied via Jorden, Content Designer at the Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Carers' Centre.

Bryan shares his story of caring and feeling alone

Did you know that 8 in 10 carers have felt lonely or socially isolated due to their caring role?And this was before the pandemic.

Everyone can feel lonely sometimes, but caring for someone can bring up particular additional challenges. For example, it’s difficult to maintain an active social life when you’re a cook, cleaner, driver and everything else for someone else.

Photo of a smiling elderly white man, wearing glasses. The sky is blue and he's bathed in sunshine.

Even when there’s a supportive network of friends and family in place, it can be difficult to talk to them. Our carer community often tells us that family and friends can either seem to think you’re some sort of saint, or they ‘just don’t get it’.

Not to mention, if we did happen to have an afternoon free, could we afford to go out? Caring costs money. There are expenses to plan for and so many of us have had to give up our jobs to provide around the clock care. With these worries to consider and without regular interactions, our social circles starts to shrink.

For Bryan, loneliness crept in when his wife Jill had to go to a care home. Although this change meant he had fewer caring responsibilities, he was left feeling lost and missing the person he had shared his life with.

“I hate to say it but I partly quite enjoyed looking after my wife. It doesn’t give you any time to think and it gave me a lot to do”

Bryan has been married to Jill for 56 years. A few years ago Bryan noticed that Jill was struggling with her memory and she was finding daily tasks more difficult.

She was soon diagnosed with vascular dementia. Over time her symptoms grew worse and she could no longer do the things she had always loved, like cooking, and baking the annual Christmas puddings for the family (all seven of them!).

“Caring can creep up on you. It was the little things she used to do, all of a sudden I found I was doing them all.”

As Jill’s health deteriorated, Bryan took on more and more daily responsibilities. Then after a pneumonia scare, the decision was made with guidance from her doctors that Jill would need to move to a care home.

“There were tears from her, it was very hard to walk away.”

After living together in the house they had shared for 49 years, Bryan found himself alone and feeling quite lost. The evenings especially became extremely long and very quiet.

“Just the TV and radio for company.”

Bryan has a supportive family, but they live far away and when he’s feeling most alone in the evenings, he sometimes feels that he doesn’t want to disturb them.

“It’s a different feeling. Jill and I could sit there all evening watching TV and barely speak, but when they’re gone it changes, [not] having that person there to comment in the moment.”

Bryan shares that one of the most valuable steps he took to tackle loneliness was to open up and talk to others. He connected with other carers by joining his local carers' centre.

Illustration in blues and pinks. Shows a computer screen with 4 people on it, holding hands and saying 'hi'. With the title "we're in it together"

He regularly attends get-togethers (both virtually and in-person when possible) and found huge benefits in doing so. Finding people that ‘get it’ and that you can relate to, even if the caring situations are not the same, can make such a difference.