As summer approaches, the desire for family caregivers to get away for a weekend or an extended vacation can be top of mind. Going from contemplation to implementation can create a great deal of stress for both the caregivers and the people they care for!
There are legitimate concerns and worries such as, “Who will look after the person I’m caring for overnight?”; “It’s going to cost money”; “My Mom has dementia and doesn’t want anyone else to care for her but me.”
Taking a break is really important for caregivers. Actually, it is essential. Without enough time away from caregiving duties, feelings of resentment and burnout may present themselves more readily. Being able to trust someone else to take care of the person being cared for or gaining clearer insight to the situation at hand and reconnecting with yourself and your family are just a few ways caregivers can benefit from a holiday.
Here are some tips to make going on vacation a little easier:
Clone yourself: OK, maybe not literally but do find a replacement caregiver or a network of support. It might be family or friends or you may decide to hire someone. It all depends on how much help and care the person you are caring for needs as well as the length of time away and financial resources available.
Schedule time for the caregiver to meet the care recipient prior to leaving. This provides an opportunity to increase comfort levels about you leaving and gives the alternative caregiver additional comfort with the daily or weekly routine.
Checklists: It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared! Having detailed instructions for the caregiver will help ease your mind while you are away. Where possible, ask the person being cared for to help you with it.
Financial matters: Make sure all bills are pre-paid and that cash can be accessed easily to meet expenses or emergency expenditures.
Emergency contact: Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers and places of where you are staying with the caregiver and another trusted source. It’s not a bad idea to call your loved one’s doctor, case manager or if they are in facility care, the head nurse prior to leaving and let them know you will be travelling and how they can reach you in an emergency.
Emergency plan: Talking about what needs to be done in a medical emergency such as an allergic reaction, stroke or broken hip is important. A signed health care proxy or representation agreement should be in place and its whereabouts known.
Start early: Yes, that seems obvious! However, trips can sneak up on us quickly. We suggest to families to give themselves at least 6 months to plan for respite or to organize care, especially for the first time through.
Don’t spend every day feeling guilty about being away! Enjoy yourself knowing that the person you are caring for is in good hands.
Author: Wendy Johnstone, M.A. Gerontology