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Caring for the Caregiver: Strategies for Taking Well-Deserved Breaks

Updated: Jan 22

Taking time for oneself amid the responsibilities of caregiving can seem like an impossible feat. Maybe you've thought about how nice it would be to take a break from your caregiving responsibilities, but it always seems out of reach. You are managing too much - physically and emotionally. However, just because your caregiving job does not come with time off doesn't mean that you don't need a break.

You've probably heard it a million times - you can't care for someone else, if you don't care for yourself. Below are some tips to help you prepare and plan for a well-deserved break.

Permit yourself to take a break. Recognize that self-care is a crucial component of caregiving and that it is as much about caring for your loved one as it is for yourself. Acknowledge that pushing yourself to the brink isn't beneficial for anyone involved. Understand that taking a break is not a luxury but a necessity for sustaining your ability to care for your loved one.

Start small and build up. Initiate the process by taking small breaks. Whether it's a half-day off, an overnight stay at a hotel, or a weekend getaway, gradually acclimate yourself to the idea of being away. Assess how your loved one copes during your absence, learn from the experience, and plan for longer breaks accordingly.

Consider timing. Take into account your loved one's routine. Identify days that are less disruptive if you're not present. Planning breaks around established schedules can help minimize the impact on your loved one's daily life.

Prepare your loved one (or not) for your absence. Depending on their cognitive abilities, communicate your upcoming break to your loved one. Involve them in creating a care plan if appropriate, but consider the potential distress if they have short-term memory loss. Use your judgment on whether informing them is beneficial.

Identify substitute caregivers. Delegate caregiving responsibilities to other family members, friends, neighbors, or hired help. Sharing the responsibility can make it more manageable for everyone involved.

Prepare the caregiver. Create a detailed list of your loved one's daily routine and preferences. Although it is second nature to you, someone new will not know your loved one’s routine and preferences. Share insights about medications, dietary preferences, clothing choices, and pastimes. Review this list with the substitute caregiver beforehand to address any questions or potential oversights.

Introduce the caregiver. If hiring a caregiver, allow them to spend time with your loved one while you are still present. This introduction helps your loved one become familiar with the new presence in their life, making the transition smoother.

Explore respite programs. Check with your local assisted living facility to see if they offer short-term care. The Family Caregiver Support Program is a federal program that pays for care so that you can take a break. Contact Mellie or your local Aging and Disability Resource Center to see if the program is available in your area.

Establish communication guidelines. Set clear communication boundaries for yourself during your break. Create a schedule for check-ins with the substitute caregiver and your loved one and define what information needs to be reported outside of these times. In determining your frequency of communication take into consideration any memory loss and the impact that may have in your conversations.

Remember that taking time for yourself is not a selfish act but a necessary one. Mellie can help you create a comprehensive plan for your breaks, ensuring that you can recharge and, in turn, be a more effective caregiver, as well as provide support to you in your role as caregiver. Your well-being is integral to the quality of care you provide, and self-care is an essential aspect of the caregiving journey. Contact us to learn more.


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