How Can Caregiving Impact Friendships?

All types of relationships naturally evolve through various life stages, whether it’s having a baby, going through a divorce, or becoming a caregiver. While rewarding, becoming a carer can be overwhelming and all-consuming, and can put a strain on one’s other relationships - including friendships. In this article, we explore the impact that caregiving can have on your friendships and how you can keep in touch with your loved ones during this busy time.

Communication Adjustments

The way you communicate with friends during this stage of your life might change. Perhaps you previously enjoyed meeting up in person for a catchup but now you find yourself with little time to do so.

While digital interactions can’t entirely replicate in-person conversations, using technology can still be a great way to keep in touch. Where time is limited, consider arranging video calls in advance, organising a virtual games night, or watching a film with a friend using a synchronised viewing app. Even a simple phone call while running errands or doing your weekly grocery shop can do wonders for keeping your connection alive.

Alternatively, you may have to start planning time for meeting friends further in advance. If you’re naturally spontaneous, this might be a big adjustment to make but creating a schedule could be a useful way to ensure you stay in contact with loved ones. A visual calendar can also help set clear boundaries. For instance, if you have time pencilled in to see friends one evening, you’ll be less likely to overcommit to additional responsibilities after work.

Emotional Changes

Being a caregiver can come with a huge mix of emotions. While you may have a sense of fulfilment, frustration, anger, loneliness, and anxiety are also some very common feelings that carers often experience. This might also include frustration and resentment towards other family members who are not helping enough or even friends who don’t share the same responsibilities as you. As a result, a sense of tension may have started to grow between you and your friends, or you find yourself avoiding them, intentional or not.

You might also feel as though you’re an emotional burden, even when you’re not. While you may not have been made to feel as though you are, you might be conscious of this lifestyle change being the only thing you have to talk about. Or you may feel guilty if you think it’s your responsibility to look after your elderly parent anyway, so you shouldn’t be “complaining”. This again, may cause you to distance yourself from others, for fear of your friends getting annoyed or not understanding.

However, openly and honestly communicating your thoughts and feelings can be key to strengthening your relationship rather than undoing it. It might be a difficult conversation, but by being vulnerable and expressing why there may be a change in your behaviour could mean your friend can provide emotional support and even help you seek professional help, if necessary. Let them decide what is “too much” rather than making assumptions.

More Appreciation for Loved Ones

Life-changing events, like becoming a caregiver, can significantly alter our worldview. During such times, you might notice your friends stepping up as an incredible support system, making you truly recognise the mutual reliance you share. This can deepen your bond as you grow to appreciate their compassion and support even more.

Making New Friends

Becoming a carer can also provide the opportunity to meet a community of those who are in a similar situation and help you better manage caregiving loneliness. This might be through carers support groups or maybe it’s that after becoming a caregiver, you’ve discover others in your life who are in similar situations.

While no situation is exactly the same, having caregiving in common can mean moral support from someone who “gets it” as well as having a shoulder to lean on during tough times. You may also be able to share practical advice with one another, and this friendship could be the chance for you to have a safe space where you feel comfortable sharing experiences that you may not otherwise.

Navigating a caregiving journey isn’t always easy, but there is support available. If you find yourself finding this adjustment period difficult, want to connect with other carers, or want some advice, we redirect you to the Carers UK site.