Outside the House and Your Caregiving Role: Taking the Edge Off Socializing

It took a few years, but you've finally got a caregiving system down; home health aides you like, an adult day center your mother will attend, and a brother who will help foot the bill.

Now, you finally have time to go out and socialize with friends.

It should be great; but why does it feel so awkward?

You hear it all the time: Get out! Take a break from caregiving! Its great in theory, but sometimes the outside world can be scarier than caregiving. And, if you've been inside concentrating on caregiving and not necessarily keeping up with the rest of the world, well, once you get out, you may want to run back in.

If you've been out of circulation, re-entering the social scene can be awkward, scary and confusing. The world may have changed while you were doing load after load off laundry. And, understanding how you fit within the changes can take time.

Being out of the house means being out of your comfort zone. And, there's nothing like questions (which seems so simple) from friends and acquaintances about your life (which seems so complicated) to increase your discomfort. To help you gain confidence, here are some suggested answers you can use to avoid feeling tongue-tied:

1. What's new?
This seems like such an easy question, but in the world of caregiving, the answer is always complex. A few ideas on how to answer:

--We're all doing well. (If the questioner is an acquaintance, it might be easier to provide general answers. And, even if you're not all doing well, sometimes it feels better to say you are.)

--Mom is having a bad week, but I'm doing okay. And, I'm so glad to be here with you today! (If the questioner is a friend or good friend, this answer works great. You've told the truth, but then moved on to your goal: To enjoy your time out of the house.)

--With Alzheimers, there's always something new! This week, the dog is new. But, overall, Frank is doing okay and I'm glad to have some time with you today. I've been looking forward to it all week.

--I'm out of the house that's what new! Let's start the fun!

2. What do you do? (i.e., Whats your career? Are you working?)

All too often, society equates ones worth with a great career. Remember, caregiving is an amazing role. Be sure to share that when you talk about your career.

--My mom needs help these days. So, I'm taking care of her. Because I'm her caregiver, Im thinking about a new career when I can get back out working. So, right now, I'm taking online classes toward a nursing degree.

--I'm home with my husband, who has Alzheimers disease. Are you working? (Providing a short answer and then asking a question can help deflect any awkwardness you may feel.)

--I'm raising my family and taking care of my parents. Two full-time jobs! But, I'm still walking and talking, although my friends often ask me how I do it. How about you?

--I left the corporate world to take care of my parents. It was a tough decision, but one I'm very proud of. How about you?

And, consider that, in social interactions, a good listener is highly valued. There aren't many good listeners left in the world. If you find yourself without any words, then go ahead and listen. Smile and nod; ask questions when you feel comfortable. And, then, when you find common ground, share something about yourself. Your listener will be in awe at what he or she discovers about you.

When you start socializing again, give yourself time to find your comfort zone, to find your way. Small steps will lead to great social success, so that your caregiving world and your break from the caregiving world will co-exist peacefully.