If you’re caring for one or both of your elderly parents, you know that it can be a fulfilling, loving and also stressful experience. Even if you’re a trained health professional, which most family caregivers aren’t, caring for a parent is difficult, even on the good days. Some days, it can feel like the stress is winning.
Caregiver stress is common; so common you can call it universal. It’s caused by the emotional and physical strain of providing day-to-day care, of feeling like you’re “on call” anytime of the day or night. Oftentimes, caregivers scale back or eliminate their social lives, put off doing anything for themselves, stop indulging in hobbies, even put their careers on hold because caregiving can be so all-consuming.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, signs of caregiver stress can include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling alone or isolated
- Sleep problems
- Constant tiredness
- Headaches or body aches
- Gaining or losing weight
It can also cause depression, substance or alcohol abuse, and lead to more serious health problems. That’s why respite care is so vital for caregivers. It’s the opportunity for a professional to come into the home and provide the care your loved ones need, while you’re “off the clock” for a while. It can be one afternoon a week, a few hours each day, or even a period of time so you can go on vacation. It’s a way to recharge your batteries and combat the stress that constant caregiving can create.
You would think respite care would be a vital, basic component of any caregiving strategy, but many caregivers resist arranging for respite care or put it off.
Why people resist arranging for respite care
Caregivers delay or put off respite care for a wide variety of reasons. Just a few:
- The “I’m fine” syndrome. Many caregivers, especially women, disregard their own needs when caring for loved ones. They believe they can handle everything, come what may, and they sweep feelings of caregiver stress under the rug.
- Feelings of guilt for wanting or needing time away from their loved one. Caregivers also feel guilty when, during their respite, they actually have a good time.
- Feeling selfish for putting their own needs first.
- The notion that admitting you need some help or time off is a sign of weakness.
- Feeling as though you’re breaking a promise.
But the reality is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for your loved one.
Benefits of respite care
By taking advantage of respite care to recharge your mind, body and spirit, you’ll come back refreshed and full of the energy you need. Respite care gives you the time to:
Focus on your physical health. Caregivers can use respite care to take the time to take care of themselves. Go to the gym or for a long walk. Plan or prepare healthy meals. Even take a long afternoon nap to recharge.
Build stronger relationships. It’s very common for caregivers to lose touch with friends or even their own spouse and children, which contributes to the loneliness, isolation and sadness many caregivers feel. You can use respite care to make time to reconnect with the other people in your life that you love. Go to lunch or a movie, take the kids to the zoo or attend their school events, get back in touch with people you haven’t seen in a while. Taking the time to nurture the relationships in your life will help relieve the stress you’re feeling.
Enjoy your hobbies and interests. Re-join that book club you felt like you had to drop out of, or just take an afternoon to read in the sun. Get some retail therapy at the local mall. Do what you love, whatever fuels your passions and brings you joy. By allowing yourself the time to do whatever it is that makes your soul sing, you will be doing wonders for your own mental health.
Take a break, and a breath. Many caregivers feel overwhelmed by the “24/7-ness” of caregiving. Just getting out of the house, going for a walk or a drive, and having some personal downtime is so important in recharging your batteries.
Respite care can feel like a lifeline to an overworked, overstressed caregiver. If you’d like to find out more about arranging respite care, contact us today. We’ll be happy to help.