Often family caregivers need to be told, coaxed, even forced to take a break from their day-to-day responsibilities tending to a loved one’s need. The reason for this is that these people need to keep themselves healthy so they can continue to be of assistance. Truly, there is something called “caregiver dementia,” which is not an official medical diagnosis but nonetheless has similar symptoms such as forgetfulness and disorientation, when a family caregiver becomes too stressed.
It is clear that the person providing care is going to gain from taking a break—whether that’s a full beach vacation or merely a couple hours at the local movie theater with a good friend. However, they may not be the only ones to benefit when there is a change in routine.
When someone is tired, stressed and burned out, they aren’t going to be their most friendly and supportive. Therefore, if they can recharge and rest up then they can return to the task at hand with a renewed spirit. Instead of grimacing when their loved one expresses a need, they can smile again. Renewed energy can restore joy to the whole caregiving partnership.
Assisting someone with daily activities means that there is likely to be a lot of repetition. While there can be a certain strength in the familiar, there can also be dullness. By hiring a professional caregiver or asking another family member to take your place, spontaneity is likely to occur as this other helper may have their own methods or fresh ideas such as taking a morning walk instead of a usual afternoon stroll or playing a board game instead of a card game.
When the family caregiver returns from an outing alone or with other friends, they might have stories to share that can liven things up and bring welcome variety to the day’s interactions.
Just as the family caregiver can gain perspective from taking a break, so too can the care receiver. For example, they might miss that daily card game or seeing a certain neighbor during their usual walk time. This change can give them a chance to feel new appreciation and gratitude for their family caregiver.
When the person doing the lion’s share of caregiving steps aside, it can give another the opportunity to give and feel needed. Often people don’t know how to help, so being asked to step in just temporarily can be the best arrangement for all.
Think of Others Too
If you’re a family caregiver who feels like it’s impossible—and even detrimental—to not be there for your loved one even briefly, stop and think of all you could do for others. When you arrange your time off, whether for a few hours or days, make a checklist:
- Communicate your plans with your loved one and talk to them about the rewards of engaging with others in your absence.
- Choose your replacement(s) carefully by making a list of what your loved one needs to make sure their needs will be met.
- Be clear about your own expectations of time away so that you can reap the most benefits from the time. Your goal might be to check an errand off your list or to rest and reestablish some peace of mind.
Seeking out respite care from family caregiving, isn’t selfish; it’s another way to show how much you care.