What to Do When You Need a Break from Caregiving
Imagine you’re a long term caregiver of an aging parent (probably not a stretch for many of us reading this article). At this point, you’ve gotten to a point where you’re no longer a new caregiver but you’re coming dangerously close to experiencing a little burnout from your caregiving role. Your temper’s shorter, your mood is swinging like Tarzan on a vine and you realize that you need to take some time to get away.
Granted work isn’t really going to be an issue – you haven’t been able to take any time off so you have plenty of vacation time stacked up – but what about Mom or Dad? Will they understand? Who will take care of them? Will you really be able to unplug from your role long enough to enjoy a week on the beach without ending up mentally stuck at home?
While chances are you won’t be able to completely unplug – this is a loved one, after all – there are a few steps that you can take to help you take a break, recharge your batteries and come back better than ever.
You Deserve a Break
There’s no question you love your folks but the routine that caregiving requires can be exhausting, mind numbing and all around frustrating. It’s easy to convince yourself that you need a break but before you can try to unplug you have to recognize that you actually deserve one as well. Remember, if no one cares for the caregiver, the caregiver can’t care for anyone.
Make a Plan
The more that you plan ahead the easier it will be to leave the worries of your daily routine behind and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. Try this:
- two weeks before your trip, sit down with a blank piece of paper and, in a column on the left side of the piece of paper, write out as many “what-ifs” that you can think of.
- Once you’ve done that, think about all of the community resources for elderly adults that you would call for each issue and write them all down in a column on the right hand side of the paper.
- Finally, down the middle, write down the point person that you can trust to make sure that the “what-ifs” on the left are taken care of by the resources on the right.
Once you’re done, you’ll probably see that there are other people you can trust to handle issues that arise and you’ll still have two weeks to make sure that everything is in place!
Make sure that you have plenty of whatever your loved one needs – whether it’s medicine, toilet paper, shampoo or anything else. They’ll feel a lot better knowing that there’s plenty of it around and that, if you get delayed, they’ll still feel safe. And remember that there are resources for elderly adults like Concierge Club that can help them with their necessities as well.
Think About Meals and Laundry
Make sure that you have a conversation about meals and laundry. Are they able to cook their own meals? If so make sure that there are plenty of groceries around. If not, cook their meals for them and put them in the freezer with easy to understand instructions written on the packaging you freeze it in (even Sharpies can wash off of glassware). And don’t forget laundry, either. Staying clean is a big function of independence and ultimately important to most seniors so make sure that they have a plan on how to do it themselves or have someone come in to help around the house while you’re gone.
Get an Alarm
Personal alarms may not be terribly stylish (although they’ve come a LONG way) but they’re incredibly important to keeping your loved ones safe while they’re home alone – even if there are two of them (think about it, can your mom lift up your dad if he trips and falls?). If you already have a system that alerts you as the first responder, make sure to shift that responsibility to someone else when you leave. Of course you’ll want to know if something happens but remember, you can’t do much if you’re out of town. Ask someone close by to take that responsibility on.
Have a Way to Touch Base
But only in emergencies. If you feel obligated to check in on a daily basis, you’ll never be able to unplug and you’ll just end up more frustrated than you were before. Ask your substitute caregiver, neighbor, even your parents themselves to respect the time that you need and only call if it’s a real emergency.
Revisit Your List
Before you leave make like Santa Clause and check that list of yours a second time. Make sure that it includes everything that you can think of that might arise – even a few things that most likely won’t arise – and a description of how you want each situation handled.
Leave for your time away knowing that you’ve done everything that you can to make sure that your loved one is safe and cared for and rejuvenate yourself. Trust me when I tell you that you – and everyone you know – will be very glad you did.