A Getaway from Grandma: Caregivers Taking a Break

Mar 21, 2016

A Getaway from Grandma: Caregivers Taking a Break

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Sometimes the life of the caregiver gets placed on the backburner and completely ignored. Think about it like leaving something cooking and unattended on the stove. Without caution, eventually it’s going to burn-up or burnout. And for this very reason, so many of the 43.5 million adult family caregivers and counting unpaid caregivers find themselves in a state of agonizing disrepair.

Of all the things caregivers may have to sacrifice when they take on the role of primary caregiver for their family member, the last thing that should be abandoned is the health and well-being of yourself.

Making a Break for it

For caregivers who are not blessed with the help from family or friends who can volunteer their time toward helping take some of the weight off their shoulders, it can seem nearly impossible to be able to comfortably leave a loved one.

Having a stranger in the home can be a frightening thought. For overbearing caregivers that are very protective and controlling, they might not trust anyone (especially someone they don’t know personally) to adequately keep their older relative or spouse taken care of the way they would. Plus, there is a lot of worry when leaving them in the hands of a person who may not be as nurturing. (And, worse even, the deep and dark fear that they may end up leaving them in the hands of a respite care provider that might be abusive.) At any rate, there is a lot of apprehension about allowing someone to temporarily step into our caregiver-shoes.

Whether the caregiver is trying to take a trip to the shore for a few days, get away from a loved one for just a few hours, or take a week away to do enjoyable things, respite care is a positive way to take breaks and restore life’s balance. Leaving an older relative can be scary and impose feelings of guilt, but if you decide to plan a break from your loved one, there is no harm done. Simply explain to your loved one how beneficial a break will be for everyone. After all, a happy caregiver makes for a happy family member. Also, it’s highly likely your senior will be happy to get to be around a new person.

Things to ask before accepting respite care in your home:

  • How do you ensure the quality or care providers?
  • How skilled/trained are the care providers?
  • Are care providers supervised?
  • Do providers provide transportation and meal prep?
  • What is the cost?
  • How do the providers handle emergency situations?
  • Do they have all the skills you needed to take care of your loved one?

Planning for taking a break

If a caregiver needs a few days off, plan ahead so that there are zero worries while recharging from other concerns. Compile a list of special skills needed to take care of your loved one while you are gone. Stay organized when planning for a break.

However, even in those instances where there seems to be no sense in arrangements for personal time off, simply try incorporating short breaks throughout the day to calm some of the stress.

Daily breaks for caregivers

For caregivers that cannot find a way to leave a loved one for a vacation, there are other ways to find solace throughout the day that can help calm some of the day’s worries. For instance, putting on a favorite record while assisting in dressing your loved one. Or taking a short walk around the neighborhood while your loved one takes a nap can be rejuvenating for one’s mental and physical wellbeing.

As a caregiver, personal batteries get drained meeting the demands of caring for personal wellbeing, as well as the life of a loved one. And when this happens, there is no other choice but to recharge and replenish.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My sister has been the primary caregiver for our father for the past year and has recently become apathetic. What can I do?

Apathy in one common sign of compassion fatigue and is common among those who work in the caregiving industry. While it is different than burnout, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. If you are able, try to alleviate some of your sister’s responsibilities by filling in and allowing her to practice some self-care as well. Also, do not be afraid to point her in the direction of a caregiver support group. There are many great resources available to help with compassion fatigue.

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My father has lived in the same house for over 50 years, so he's reluctant to leave. How do I talk to him about moving to a senior care community?

When people grow attached to a familiar setting, moving to a senior care community can be a difficult subject, especially when caregiving is involved. To avoid excessive stress for you and your loved one, there are ways to bring up "the move" to elderly parents. Remember to remain honest and address any concerns your father may have. Prepare yourself for resistance. 

Have you checked out our Is It Time to Seek Senior Care Checklist? This resources will help you decide if it really is the right time for your senior to move out. This may be something that you want to bring to a meeting with your senior to show them some reasons why it may not be safe for them to live independently anymore.

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