Respite: Enjoy a Guilt-free Time-out
By Kate Murphy, RN

Why is it that the words �respite� and �guilt� seems to go hand in hand? Why do we as caregivers feel we are somehow failing our loved one by admitting that we need help, need time to recharge our batteries, or just need time to play a bit? Perhaps because so many of us still hold on to the myth that says the caregiver has to be all things to all people.

The truth is, that no matter how we try, we are not super-duper caregiver extraordinaire. We are human with all the same needs and feelings as every other person in our lives. And, just like everyone else we need to take time to smell the roses.

The thought of going away for even a brief time for many caregivers is fraught with fears of disaster and chaos because we are not there to over see everything. After all, we all know that no one can replace what we do as caregivers to our family member or loved one. 

And this belief was not so far from the truth. In fact, I still firmly believe that no one can replace the caregiver. The love and support we provide to our charge cannot be duplicated by anyone. Still, sometimes, it is OK to let someone else do the best they can for our family member, so that we can take time to regroup and in doing so, be ale to continue to be the wonderful caregiver that we have been to date. It is a simple concept when you think about it. In using the principals of respite we will ultimately be providing the very best care to our loved one that is humanly possible.

As a caregiver it is important that we recognize that it is ok to take a break from our caregiving duties. It is ok to feel tired, and want to have a break from caregiving! Not only is it OK, it is your right! You are allowed to stay healthy both physically and emotionally. Actually, by not doing this you are helping to create a potential problem down the road. No one can keep going day after day without a break, sooner or later it is going to catch up with you, and not only will you suffer, but also your loved will as well.

It is equally important to know that not taking that break can and often results in medical complications to the caregiver. If a medical emergency developed for the caregiver, who then will help provide the care to their loved one?

Ask any caregiver who has been at it for any length of time, and you will learn that their own health has suffered when they failed to take proper care of themselves. Respite care is on way in which the caregiver can get this needed break, and hopefully do it without that old GUILT feeling creeping in. By taking care of you, and recharging your own batteries, you are ultimately taking care of your loved one. There is no need to allow guilt into the picture. All this will do is prevent you from reaping the full rewards of a true respite.

Respite care can be anything from a few hours a week, to longer periods of up to two weeks or longer in some cases in order to provide care to a loved one while the caregiver takes a break. Respite Care provides caregivers the opportunity to:

  • Take a vacation.

  • Have a weekend getaway.

  • Attend to home or work responsibilities that have been building up.

  • Recharge their energy to be better prepared to provide the attention and patience required on a daily basis.

Think about these principals to ensure your guilt-free respite:

  • I am entitled to take care of myself.

  • I am worthy of a break.

  • I am showing my commitment to my caregiver role when I take steps like respite care to ensure that continued quality care is delivered to my loved one.

  • It is OK to relax and enjoy other aspects of my life.

  • It is OK to take a break and recharge my energies.

  • It is OK to maintain as much normalcy in my life as possible

  • It is OK to continue to dream.

  • If roles were reversed, there is no question I would want my loved one to have respite.

  • It is right and responsible of me to also have respite.

Respite solutions

Some short-term respite solutions include enlisting another family member, neighbor, or friend to stay with your loved one for a few hours several times a week. This offers an opportunity to the caregiver to have a �mini respite�. Activities can include, going shopping, to a movie, getting your hair done or having a pampering facial. For many who are not comfortable leaving their family member for longer than a few hours, this is an excellent way to recharge the batteries, and at the same time, do some SPECIAL for you.

Often it is just doing a little something extra like this that can make all the difference to a caregiver who is feeling the stain in all that they have to do each day.

Another option, one that I highly recommend to all caregivers is the scheduled respite in which your loved one is entrusted into the care of a respite service center, or perhaps another family member will take on the role while you have a much needed rest.

Respite centers offer temporary residents a variety of services that meet all of their needs. From around-the-clock medical care to recreational activities, vacationing family members will be put at ease knowing that their relative is well taken care of during their absence.

You can begin to locate respite centers, or respite services in your area by contacting your local bureau on aging. They can direct you to any services available. They can also provide information on what Medicare and Medicaid will cover. Another resource might be your religious community. Your local social service agency, the local chapters of Alzheimer�s Association, Easter Seals, or Mental Health agency are all resources that can help you to find the right respite care for you.

So go ahead make a decision today to plan for the respite our so richly deserve, and need! You will be glad you did. And if you have not had a respite before, you are going to wonder what took you so long!

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