Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
Everyone deserves a break in their routine. When caring for someone who is sick or injured, although you are doing it from a place of love, it is like a job. Do you take a break? What do you do on when you don’t have to be on high alert or within reach of the loved one you’re caring for? My experience is that getting you, the caregiver, to take a break is a difficult task. I’m not sure if caregivers feel guilty for taking the time or they feel it’s a mark on their “perfect” record in life, but it’s hazardous to your health.
I’ll tell you the personal story from my own family to make this point. My father-in-law (who died this past March) had a massive stroke following open heart surgery. If he hadn’t been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) he would have died, but immediate medical attention and technology saved his life. He was disabled after this and my mother-in-law became his full-time caregiver. Over the years he began to decline and you could see the toll it was taking on her health. I recommended that the three kids get together and hire someone to come in so that she could go out without a care in the world and try to regain some aspects of a “normal” life. The respite worker began coming a couple of times a week and my mother-in-law sat with them. She didn’t even leave for a cup of coffee, to read a book, or any other enjoyable activity. It was only a month or two before the respite worker was gone.
You may feel that the world around you is judgmental, but I don’t think that’s the case. I believe it’s the committee in your head that is guiding the actions of caregivers and that committee needs some fine tuning. Respite is that window of opportunity that restores sanity. I have a friend who has two sons who are both disabled. The boys (now 19 and 23) are both enrolled in a program that takes them to a downtown hotel overnight and the group attends some type of event in the city. It gives their mother and step-dad time to shed their caregiver roles and have fun without having to take into account the special needs of the kids.
Respite care is not about abandoning the person you love; it’s about making sure you don’t abandon yourself. If you’re not healthy on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels you’ll have a much tougher time executing your role as a caregiver. Give yourself the benefit of respite care and see how it enhances your life, the life of the person you’re caring for, and how much more effective you become as a caregiver.