May 30, 2020 © by Judith Allen Shone
“I’ve had it!”
“Enough with this caregiving gig!”
“I’m exhausted! Time for a break!”
I have said those words many times after days and months of frustration. I know I am not the only one who has felt that way.
What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Caregivers need to find time to regenerate. While there are many beneficial self-care activities, for me, respite is most important activity, the tonic that is ‘good for what ails you,’ the necessary breathing space for a good-health U-turn.
Respite, the word that, to me, means sent by my guardian angel, is defined as “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant,” is not so easy to find once you become a caregiver. Until someone told me I needed respite, I didn’t know that a caregiver break was an option.
Like most of those who fall into the role of caregiver without training, I, too, had to learn from others and through our own experiences. I had to learn that if I became sick, I could not care for my loved one. I had to understand that self-care included respite. I had to plan personal appointments for respite for me.
As the image says, if caregivers forget to relax, their body may do it for them…maybe not the type rest they dreamed about and likely not at a time of their choosing. I had to learn to schedule good health!
Make your respite be what you need.
Good health and personal support are essential for a caregiver to manage the physical demands and the roller coaster of emotions that are associated with the expected daily tasks caring for a loved one.
While rewarding, the challenges of caregiving can be exhausting and cause burnout, the physical and mental fatigue caused by being used-up!
I have read on many sites that simply anticipating regularly scheduled relief can be like wearing your life preserver, a protection for ‘what if,’ a feeling of comfort.
Respite can be an hour break, a day or weekend away. Sometimes, the caregiver just has to get out of the situation entirely, to let someone else take over, to avoid further mental anguish or physical exhaustion or even depression.
Since the intention is to bring relief from daily stress, to renew energy and to restore a sense of balance to our lives, the allotted ‘break’ is determined by the time required to recover from the current depth of distress.
Remember, respite is for the caregiver.
Your time schedule, your frame of mind, your health and your ability to find help while you are away will define what is possible. This list will help you ‘schedule relief’ in your days ahead.
Arrange for someone to ‘stand in’ your shoes, caring for your loved one during the time you are away.
And now, make a PLAN!
Of course, this is all done with safe distancing if coronavirus is still present and guiding our behaviours.
The redbud tree picture above is one of many garden pictures my sister sends me as mental respite. “As we ‘sit’ beneath the redbud tree, we watch her flowers bloom. It’s the next-best thing to being there, until we meet on zoom!” 🌼🌻🥀🌹 🥰
Call your Alzheimer Society or other support connection. Tell them your need for support, for respite, for help. They can make suggestions and guide you if you ask. Or let one of the following suggestions trigger an activity that works for you.
A few suggestions to anticipate … make your own list.
- Take a walk alone, to think and to be grateful.
- Look for 4-leaf clovers or special treasures on your walk.
- Walk with another for socializing.
- Visit a museum or gallery.
- Go to an exercise class
- Swim or go fishing, climb or run. Keep your body moving.
- Enjoy a creative experience. Paint, take pictures, sing, play an instrument, garden, dance, write, bird-watch, build something, learn a language, cook, sew. Make your heart sing.
- Help another caregiver solve a situation.
- Go for ‘lunch out,’ alone at the drive-through, or with a friend at the restaurant down the street.
- Go shopping, alone or with another. To the grocery or to the dress shop or book store. Talk with the folks you meet. Socialize.
- Spend time at a weekend spa or resort. Meditate. Socialize. Whatever your heart and health need most to regenerate.
- Drive around the neighborhood or drive in the country. Use the time for letting the mind relax from the daily tasks at home.
- Find a ‘home’ where your loved one can stay, safely and professionally cared for during one night or two, while you have time to go to a show, to go out to dinner, without worrying about their status.
- Schedule meals to be delivered on certain nights so the meal responsibility will be eliminated that day.
- If you can, talk to friends on the phone about topics other than your caregiving challenges. Go to a support group where others are experiencing similar days.
- Promise yourself to get out of the house, out of the bubble, once each day. Go to the library to read or to pick up a book. Go pick up a coffee.
- Window shop. Sit in the middle of the mall and people-watch.
- Take time out of the ‘situation’ to role play or solve a serious problem without having worries of the loved one present.
- Call relatives or an agency to have someone stay with your loved one while you take a predetermined break, for pleasure or personal. Health needs are just as important for caregivers.
- Sign up to be involved, in some small way, in an activity that makes your heart sing. Mental health is as important as physical health.
- Meet new friends of friends, through neighbours, clubs or social media. Discussion of common interests can be a mental escape from caregiving.
- Sit in the waiting room at a friendly veterinarian’s office to fulfill your heart’s need for animal hugs! (my favourite!)
When I first needed respite, a friend reminded me, “Go sit on the curb, just get physically away from the stressful energy surrounding your day.”
I did it. My legs cramped! But I knew what she meant. I went and sat on the tailgate of my car by the lake to read my book. The solitude helped immensely.
Making your own list can be respite. Then when the time comes, and the planned opportunity appears, hopefully before the necessity arises as an emergency, you will be ready without stressful worry about what to do.
Please, SHARE YOUR RESPITE STORIES for other caregivers in our “share your experiences” comment section below. 😊 Thank you.
Each day do something that makes others smile and your heart sing!
Respite Ideas Copyright (c) 2020 Judith Allen Shone