The other night some friends and I attended one of those wine and canvas events that are popular right now in San Diego County. While we painted our African sunset (mine more resembles Altoona!), one friend talked about how difficult it was to coax an out-of-town cousin to come visit her for a weekend. Her cousin is the primary caregiver for her parents, both of whom have Alzheimer's Disease. And she's convinced she can't leave them to go on a vacation.
Nonesense, I told her. And in today's Huffington Post, someone else agrees with me.
Taking a break from a loved one in your charge does take planning and preparation. But respite is so vital to a caregiver's well-being that it is worth the extra effort. The key is adjusting expectations and managing the emotions that tether us to loved ones in need.
First, find someone who can take care of your loved one[s] while you're gone. This requires some homework. It could be a trusted relative or a professional service provider. Relatives can be more convenient and less costly, but they may also be less reliable. If a parent or spouse is used to staying home, consider hiring in-home care for the duration of your trip; if they still have a little adventure in them, try a residential facility that provides overnight respite. Will they provide the same level of care you do? Probably not. But your loved one will still be safe and may even enjoy the break in routine. Just be sure you chose the right person or place.
Next, stay near a phone but don't overuse it. Checking in every hour is no way to relax. It's also highly annoying to your host or traveling friends. It's okay to periodically wonder how things are going, and to worry something may go wrong. But having an emergency plan in place and ample instructions for others should hedge any difficulties taking place while you're gone.
Work up to a longer break. Start with an overnight trip, even if its from your home to a nearby hotel. And if that's successful for both parties, make it a weekend trip the next time. Eventually, you might be able to stay away for longer. But in any event, you'll have taken some time to recharge. And that should be of benefit to everyone in the family.