Respite Care and Staying at Your Best
Respite care is not self-indulgent. It’s a necessity. Caring for an older or ill family member can be hugely rewarding and bring you closer − but being consumed by it will drain you physically and emotionally, and eventually cause burnout. That’s why it’s important for caregivers to seek occasional respite from their responsibilities, whether it’s for a few hours a week to run personal errands - or longer to take a much-needed vacation. Respite care offers you the chance to de-stress, restore your physical and mental energy, and keep your own life in balance.
The Many Benefits of Respite Care
Respite care for loved ones provides short-term breaks for caregivers, for their own well-being, and for the well-being of the person for whom they are providing care. After all, you want to be at your very best, both physically and mentally. There are many benefits to be had through respite care. They include having:
- Leisure time for renewal – Take a walk, read a book, browse the internet, visit an art gallery or museum, listen to music – whatever brings you a sense of joy and calm.
- A change of venue – Escaping routine caregiving can help you relax, bring you a new perspective on the situation, and gives you a chance to clear your head to come up with new solutions to problems or concerns.
- Enjoyment and pleasure – As a caregiver, you must remember that you have the right to enjoy life. You also have no reason to feel guilty.
- A renewed sense of self – You are an individual who also needs to live your life and keep a firm grip on your own identity.
- Socialization – Don’t be isolated or feel alone. Take time to engage with friends, family, and co-workers by sharing meals, conversation, and experiences.
Once You Have Decided to Pursue Respite Care
- Involve your loved one. When planning for time off from your caregiving duties, make sure to keep your loved one informed. Involve him or her in deciding how much time you will be away, and who will fill in for you when you’re gone. Express how he or she will benefit from you being more relaxed and refreshed. Reinforce the idea that they will also benefit from socializing with other people.
- Acknowledge your role. A survey of family caregivers by the National Family Caregivers Association showed that family caregivers often refuse to accept that caregiving is a separate role from their role as a parent or spouse. The survey found that shifting this attitude and accepting that caregiving is a separate role had a profound impact on their situations.
- Assess your needs. Decide what care will be needed in your absence, and if there are specific caregiver skills needed to take care of your loved one.
- Stay organized. Use a calendar to organize and plan for assistance, and don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. Schedule in some respite time and indicate how you plan to use it.
- Create your own space. Once you’ve decided on having respite relief, find a place for yourself, whether it’s a porch, spare bedroom, or simply a corner of a room. You shouldn’t have to leave the house to get some alone time to enjoy hobbies, relax – and do the things you love most.
- Deal with your feelings. Bottling up your emotions takes a toll on your psyche and your health. Share feelings of frustration with friends and family. Seek support from others who are in a similar situation. Talk with a professional counselor, or join a caregiver support group.
- Remember to say “no” when it’s necessary. Accept the fact that you can't do everything, and resist the urge to take on more than you can handle. If someone asks you to do something that you just can’t take on, be honest, explain why you can’t - and don't feel bad about it.
- Stay positive. Do your best to not dwell on the negative. Hold a family meeting or call a senior care mediator to resolve conflicts with siblings and other relatives. Remember to be proud of all that you are doing, and focus on the rewards of caring for someone you love.
While we stake our business around helping our clients age gracefully in their own homes, we also feel a close bond with families and their own efforts to help their parents or loved ones. That’s why we created a guide to help family caregivers avoid burnout, learn how to deal with family and emotional issues, and how to discuss care needs with their loved ones. All of this leads to a healthier and happier experience for both the family and the seniors we serve.
Caring for yourself is the key to long-term success as a family caregiver. If you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be as effective and you may burn out and not be able to continue--no one wants to think that can happen to them but in some circumstances it does.