What is “me” time to you? For many family caregivers in need of back up or a break to catch their breath, recharge their batteries, or just care for themselves, it’s little snippets of time alone. The idea of a long weekend to the spa isn’t within their reach, maybe for time or financial reasons.
We asked some family caregivers to share their experiences snatching bits of time away from their caregiving responsibilities—no matter how small or silly it might sound.
Sarah Lisovich, a writer for Central Infusion Alliance Inc., candidly shared how she copes when she needs a break from caring for family members.
“When I need a quick break, I like to take a look inside the refrigerator,” she says. “Getting hit with the cold temperatures puts me physically and mentally in a different environment, if only for a few seconds. Seeing what food is available also gives me a visual break, while taking a quick inventory of what items are stocked up and what is needed.”
One woman who has been caring for her husband since he had a stroke shared this: “You do become isolated form everyone. And it is a chore to go to the store. After about 4 years I'm able to walk every aisle in the food store and it is like a break for me.”
More than one family caregiver said that being in their car with loud music was therapeutic.
Leighann Lord of www.veryfunnylady.com admits that she is new to caregiving for her elderly parents, but she’s already getting good at “mini-breaks” for herself.
“My favorite mini-break so far is the drive time search for parking,” she confesses. “When I take my parents to their medical appointments, I'll drop them off right in front of the building and then I go park. That's my mini moment of Zen. It's quiet and peaceful unless, of course, I'm blasting my music. Bonus: the walk from the parking spot to the doctor's office is all me time too!”
Another woman who cared for her parents would also find privacy in the car. “I was afraid people would think all I did was complain,” she explains. “I used to go for long drives at night when Pop was asleep. My only get away by myself time.”
Ms. Lord’s short walk from parking to the doctor’s office wasn’t unique for those looking for a restorative moment.
Melissa Jirovec has been a caregiver to her husband since his traumatic brain injury after an ATV accident. “I became his full-time caregiver, and we moved a lot,” she says. “At one point we were living in a condominium, and I found it hard to get away or get some time to myself. I could leave him alone for short periods with his fall alert bracelet, so I began to get creative within the building. For a while, I would put in some headphones and go up and down the stairs (all 31 floors) just to work off some steam and get out of my head. I can only imagine what the security team must have thought seeing me go up and down flights and flights of stairs! It was a great break for me though.”
Melissa is now a caregiving coach who helps others like her remember to take care of themselves.
When you cannot physically leave the person in need of care, there can be a sort of escape. Cori Carl, Director of the Caregiver Space and a caregiver for her grandmother who has dementia and is in hospice, shares how she copes.
While it can be distressing that my grandmother no longer remembers me, it can also provide some comic relief,” she says. “If she's worked up, I'll leave for a few minutes, come back in and she'll assume I'm someone else. If she thinks I'm one of the neighbors or a childhood friend, we can sit and have a nice cup of tea. We have fun chatting about her world travels, planning vacations, and swapping gossip that hails from the 1960s. While it's not quite alone time, it can turn a stressful day into a relaxing "girls afternoon."
Louise Geary’s children are adults now, but her oldest son has cerebral palsy and she describes his needs as “quite high.” She remembers that when her kids were little she could escape briefly…to the bathroom.
“When my kids were little and I had no possibility of time for myself, my favorite me time was going to a toilet at a cafe I used to go to with the kids. It was spacious with a sunny aspect, had a window with a leafy view and a lock on the door. I could sit in ambient silence, totally alone and safe in the knowledge that no-one could get through that door. A few minutes of blissful just me time.”
If making time for yourself feels like one more item on your task list, scratch it off the next time you find yourself alone in the car for five minutes with the music blaring or when you take an extra minute or two to stare into your freezer. What matters is the result—a clearer head, a deep breath or two, reduced stress—in your well-being.
Whether it’s a short drive or walk, just be sure to make time for yourself and take breaks from caregiving whenever possible.
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