The majority of our clients have a concerned family member either living with them or living nearby to help with emergencies, errands, doctor appointments or even day-to-day care. Caregiving is a tough job, and every caregiver deserves a break. If you are caring for an aging or disabled loved one, you know how easy it can be to become overwhelmed, tired, and burnt out. We encourage all of our family caregivers to take some time off from caregiving to recharge and rest, but we also know that it can be so hard to get away even for a long weekend. Just in time for the holiday travel season, we wanted to share some information about caregiving and vacationing.
A Vacation Involves Too Much Planning
As a caregiver you have so much responsibility on your shoulders. You have your own health, your own household, maybe even a job or business and a family of your own to be concerned about. On top of this, you have an aging or disabled loved one that depends on you so much. Sometimes getting through the day takes more energy and time than you have; so doing that AND planning a vacation seems impossible!
Vacations do not have to be exotic, far away or fancy. “Staycations” where you simply stay home, unplug, order in food, and watch movies all day can be rejuvenating and restoring. Staying at a bed and breakfast a few miles away can give you the break you need. And if you truly want to get away, let a travel planner, your credit card company, or even Costco make your arrangements—so many businesses now offer travel booking as a special perk. You may not get the vacation of your dreams, but you will get some time away to get a break. It doesn’t have to be a perfect vacation in order to give you the break you deserve.
You Deserve a Life, Too
Many caregivers feel like they need to put their life on hold while they are caregiving. Even though they may have grandchildren they rarely get to see or dreams of their own yet fulfilled, they resist giving themselves permission to travel out of state to see other family members or to see the parts of the world they long to experience. Caregivers deserve a life, too, and looking after yourself is not selfish or self-centered. Taking care of yourself, investing time in what you want and need may not be appreciated or approved of by others, but you do not need their permission to live your life. You can spend time on yourself and meet your caregiving responsibilities.
The Fear of What Will Happen While You’re Away
“There’s no way I can go out of town. Everything seems to fall apart as soon as I leave.” This is a common reality for many caregivers. After MONTHS of stability and calmness, a caregiver may feel like it’s an okay time to travel or leave town for just one week. Without fail, it seems as if that’s when the emergency happens! Mom ends up in the hospital, constant calls start coming in with high anxieties, a fall occurs, the list of possible emergencies never ends. Or what if the worst happens—what if your loved one dies while you are away? Could you ever forgive yourself?
The fear of emergencies happening while you are away is real. You can make contingency plans for this. Assign someone else to be the primary contact. Is there another family member that can be the emergency contact? You can hire an Aging Life Care Manager to be the main contact while you’re away if there is no family. You could also decide to provide care remotely, traveling only to places that allow you to be accessible. You can hire a certified nursing assistant to provide companionship for your loved one while you’re away or consider a respite stay at an assisted living community. You may have options to help your loved one while you’re away. It will be hard work to get the plans in place, but it will likely be well worth it so that you can get a break.
And although you can make great contingency plans, there is the chance that you will not have everything planned out perfectly. An emergency may occur, your loved one’s anxiety may be higher, or the worst may occur. Making the decision to not vacation or travel because of this is making a fear-based decision. Being a caregiver can often put some of your wants and needs in conflict—you may find yourself wanting to be a good caregiver to someone you love and also needing to have a break from caregiving or just time away to do something else. It’s not easy to prioritize your own needs, but taking time for yourself is not selfish or self-centered. You will likely be a better caregiver once you get a break.
This holiday season, we wanted to share this encouragement with all the caregivers out there. Caregiving is hard. We know what you are doing day in and day out, and we believe that you deserve a break, too. For our clients, we work closely with the individuals and their families to help make the times the caregivers are away to be calm and stress-free. Whenever possible, the therapists at Mindful Transitions try to meet with our clients during the caregiver’s absence, and we provide our clients with extra tools to handle their stress and anxiety during those times. We also often act as extra ears, eyes, and hands for the caregivers, relaying back important information while they are away.
To find out more about the Clinical Social Workers at Mindful Transitions, please call us at 678-637-7166 or visit us at https://www.mindfultransitions.com/