The loneliness of caregiving: How to stay socially connected

Closeup of old woman hands holding mobile phone

Woman with mobile phone

My husband had younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The hardest thing for me during the duration of his illness was that I lost my companion. He was the person I made important decisions with. The person I went to movies with, ate dinner with, had interesting conversations with, traveled with, and shared delight with over the accomplishments of our children. He was the one I could complain to if I had a headache, stomach ache, or sore throat, without worrying about being called a hypochondriac or a baby. He was also the person who always cheered me on when I succeeded in achieving my goals.

When it came time to make the decision to move him to a memory care home, I especially missed having him help me decide on which room he’d live in, what type of furniture to buy, and the mattress he would sleep on. When it came time to bury him, it was agonizing for me to choose the plot of land where he would be laid to rest, and where I will be eventually interred.

During my many years of caregiving, I would often hide behind a mask of cheerfulness. It helped. I didn’t feel like a prisoner because I hired people to take my husband out to see a movie. Several of his friends kindly took him to lunch on a regular basis. It takes an effort to maintain friends and to stay socially involved, especially if you no longer work outside the home.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t let my husband’s disease ruin my life. I kept an active calendar filled with dance classes, lunches with friends, and even pursued a certificate in nutrition–all the while he was ill.

But it took planning and some might think I was a bit selfish. But when you look at the grand picture of caregiving, taking care of your personal needs is anything but being selfish. Studies show that 40 to 70 percent of family caregivers experience symptoms of clinical depression. One of the reasons, besides the daily stress, is isolation and loneliness.

Now for the lecture part: If you are a caregiver it is vital that you maintain a social network. Here are some ideas:

  • Stay connected with friends and family either through Facebook or another social media outlet, or by telephone or email, etc.
  • Make a lunch date with a friend at least once a week.
  • Many places of worship offer support for caregivers and families, including social events.
  • Go to a class—any kind of class: knitting, dance, weight training.
  • Join a support group—The Alzheimer’s Association offers classes and workshops for caregivers and for the person with memory loss.
  • Ask your friends and family for respite care. Have someone come over for a couple of hours a week so you can at least get out for a walk or go grocery shopping.
  • Go to the movies with a friend. It’s a great way to escape into another world for a few hours.
  • Call a best friend who is happy to talk; call someone who makes you laugh–laughter is truly the best medicine.
  • Bring your loved one to a Memory Cafe/Alzheimer’s Cafe. The challenges of living with memory loss can sever social connection at a time when it is needed most. Throughout the US and Europe, this casual social meeting is for caregivers and their care partner (the person they are caring for). Memory Cafes offer a way to socialize, explore art, music, poetry and listen to discussions and presentations. A Dutch psychologist opened the firs Memory Cafe in Holland. today there are about 200 Memory Cafes in the U.S.
  • Chat online with other caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association offers chat rooms and so does the American Cancer Society. Check Elder Care Online for chat room and caregiver forum links. ElderCare Online’s Caregiver Support Network brings together online resources, groups and experts to create a virtual community dedicated to improving quality of life for you and your loved ones.

Turmeric does a body good

fresh turmeric roots on wooden table

Fresh turmeric 


Tumeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow hue and tang. But it does a lot more than flavor the most popular Indian dish. Several studies have found a protective effect of curcumin in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and it’s no surprise. The senior population in rural Indian has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the world, and scientists believe it is due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric,1,2 and its ability to inhibit the build up of amyloid plaque.3

The buzz about inflammation

Inflammation in the body is a good thing; it is the body’s natural response to a cut or injury. When we cut our finger, white blood cells accumulate at the site in order to prevent infection and promote healing. Inflammation serves a vital role in the body. Inflammation is one of the primary mechanisms selected by nature to maintain the integrity of our body against the thousand environmental attacks that we receive every day, according to Luigi Ferrucci, the scientific director of the National Institute on Aging“Inflammation is part of our maintenance and repair system. Without it, we can’t heal.” (“Inflamed”by Jerome Groopman, The New Yorker, Nov 30, 2015.)

Some researchers believe that a chronic state of low-level inflammation in the body can contribute to or trigger chronic diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. Connecting the dots between causation and manifestation of a disease are sketchy. But there are plenty of studies that back up the anti-inflammatory properties of the turmeric.

Turmeric has numerous health benefits. More than 900 published research papers attest to the anti-cancer activity of curcumin, turmeric’s potent extract. And Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association, published a study about curcumin’s ability to help pre-diabetic patients from developing full-blown diabetes.

A study done by researchers from the University of Melbourne indicated that curcumin might prevent or improve age-related cognitive decline, dementia and mood disorders. The study included 60 adults between 60 and 85 years old. An hour after taking a curcumin supplement (400 mg) the participants experienced a higher attention span and better memory when compared to the participants who took a placebo. After four weeks of taking the supplement, the curcumin group showed improvement in mood, memory, alertness and feelings of well-being. 4

How much to take? You can find dietary supplements in tablet and capsule form at health food stores with curcumin extracts in dosages of 400 to 600 mg. The general advice is to take one dose three times daily or as directed on the product.

Use as a cold, flu and congestion remedy
Turmeric has been used as a natural remedy for centuries to help boost immunity and prevent and shorten respiratory illnesses. The next time you get a cold, try adding it to hot water with grated ginger and a teaspoon of honey. It will perk you up and possibly reduce the length of time you are sick. You might also discover that it enhances your memory.

How to get more turmeric into your diet?
1. One way is to drink turmeric tea, which is popular among Okinawans, who are known for their longevity.
• Bring four cups of water to a boil.
• Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
• Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste

2. Sprinkle it on your food—turmeric is especially good added to braised greens. Saute onion in olive oil, add greens of your choice (kale, spinach, Swiss chard), and add 1 tsp of turmeric and a sprinkle of salt.
Add turmeric to eggs, scrambled tofu, soups, potato pancakes, casseroles, rice, etc. You can’t go wrong, and you can’t overdose on turmeric.


Golden Milk Recipe

1 cup of almond or coconut milk, ½ t ground turmeric, ½ t ground ginger, ¼ t cardamom and 1 tsp honey. You can also add a pinch of black pepper if you wish. Whisk the ingredients together, strain over a mug


• 8 ounces milk (dairy, soy milk, coconut, or nut milk), warmed
• 1⁄2 teaspoon (1⁄4 teaspoon for kids younger than 6) turmeric
• 1⁄4 teaspoon honey

Directions: Combine warm milk and turmeric in a mug and add honey.

Vegetable Curry

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 2 carrots, chopped,
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-oz can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 6 Tbs. coconut or olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 Tbs. curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs raisins
  • 1 cup orange juice


In a large pan or pot saute sweet potato, eggplant, peppers, carrots, onion in six tablespoons oil for 5 minutes.

Add garlic, turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the garbanzo beans, cashews, zucchini, raisins, and orange juice. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Serve over rice or quinoa.


1. Chin D1, Huebbe P, Pallauf K, Rimbach G. Neuroprotective properties of curcumin in Alzheimer’s disease–merits and limitations. Curr Med Chem. 2013;20(32):3955-85.
2. Nahar PP1, Slitt AL, Seeram NP. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Novel Standardized Solid Lipid Curcumin Formulations. J Med Food. 2015 Jul;18(7):786-92. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2014.0053. Epub 2014 Dec 9.
3. Endo H1, Nikaido Y1, Nakadate M1, Ise S1, Konno H2. Structure activity relationship study of curcumin analogues toward the amyloid-beta aggregation inhibitor. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2014 Dec 15;24(24):5621-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2014.10.076. Epub 2014 Oct 30.
4. Cox KH1, Pipingas A1, Scholey AB2. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2014 Oct 2. pii: 0269881114552744.