Dating as a Caregiver
When you’re taking care of someone it can seem impossible to find time to eat, sleep, and bathe — nevermind look for love. It isn’t easy, but there are other caregivers out there who are going on dates and embarking on new relationships. Remember, everyone has their own situation. What works for one caregiver might not work for you.
It’s good for you
Having a social life — and a dating life — aren’t just for fun. They’re important for your mental health. Caregiving is incredibly emotionally demanding and you need to maintain a balanced life in order to keep giving to someone else. Even an hour or two a week of social time makes you a better caregiver, because it recharges you. Plus, everyone loves bad date stories.
It’s good for the person you care for
It’s not healthy for one person — you — to be their only friend or source of support. It’s good for them to be around other people and get to socialize. Social isolation is terrible for you and the person you care for — don’t lock yourself up in solitary confinement.
It’s okay to ask for help
Needing to rely on others isn’t a sign of weakness — no caregiver should be on their own. Of course, the logistics of finding someone to provide care in your absence can be formidable. Some of us have an easier time than others — finding someone to keep an eye on my adorable autistic niece is a piece of cake, while I have to beg and cajole to get someone to keep my ornery uncle company, and neither of them requires complex medical care.
Find friends — and dates — online
Don’t know anyone you’re interested in dating? No problem. Sign up for an online dating profile, many of which are free. If you’re not comfortable joining a dating site, Meetup.com can help you meet other people to socialize and speed up the process of meeting someone the old fashioned way. Your local library will probably have a calendar of events, too.
It’s okay to cut corners
We all have only 24 hours a day — you decide how you spend it. Are all of your non-negotiable tasks really non-negotiable? Are there shortcuts you can take or corners you can cut with chores? Are you keeping busy to distract yourself from sadness? Take a look at the calendar and make a realistic decision about how often you can go out and then follow through. Don’t decide there’s no time for you in your life.
Get creative with finding help
Beyond asking for help from family and friends, there might be caregiving volunteers available through a neighborhood organization. Elder Helpers has volunteers around the country; Wake County, NC has the Center for Volunteer Caregiving; Caregiver Companion serves parts of Indiana. Please share information on other organizations in the comments below.
You can also trade time with another local caregiver. It’s also worth it to find a professional caregiver who you’re comfortable with. Even if you don’t use paid care often, having a professional caregiver who knows your loved one is priceless when there’s an emergency.
Fun can be affordable
Going on a date doesn’t have to mean dropping a bunch of cash. Many museums have free entry at specific times or free programs. Most art galleries don’t charge admission — and even have opening parties that the public can attend. If it’s nice out there are often free outdoor movies, dancing lessons, and concerts — or you can enjoy a stroll or a picnic. Ask around to find out which cafes have good specials and affordable prices.
You’ll keep the good ones
Some people will dismiss you as soon as they realize you’re a caregiver, but that might be a good thing.It’s better to realize someone’s not ready to deal with real life early on. People who stick around are going to be the type of people who will stick it out for the long-haul.
You’ll skip the bad ones
All too many of us have been guilty of going on second or third dates with people we aren’t interested in because why not? Well, when you’re paying $20/hr or have begged a friend to come over for a few hours there’s a compelling reason to not waste time with someone you’re just not that into.
You’ll find someone who understands that caregiving is your priority. Even if caregiving is your top priority, if you want to pursue a serious relationship with someone, they need to be one of your priorities, too. Things come up — a lot! — and that’s fine, but you need to be extra sure to let them know what’s going on. Being a no-show or vanishing for weeks on end isn’t an acceptable way to treat someone, regardless of your caregiving responsibilities.
Remember, no one thinks dating is particularly easy or fun all of the time. It’s okay to take a break from dating — or decide you’re not interested in a romantic relationship at all. But if you’re looking for love, it’s important to make that a priority in your life — and seek out the help and support you need to make it happen.
Originally published at thecaregiverspace.org on July 1, 2015.