Caregiving involves a lot of sacrifices. However, balance is important to maintaining the caregiver’s health and the well-being of the care recipient. What happens to your vacation plans as a caregiver? Can you go on your usual summer vacation? Can you attend the special family event or take that long-awaited anniversary trip with your spouse? Do you bring your care recipient along? Will you be able to put aside your anxiety to enjoy a trip?
The first thing we will say: it is possible. We work with many families who take vacations smoothly, even traveling overseas and not always being very accessible. Evaluate your personal situation, do some research and plan so you’re prepared. Come to think of it, this is a lot like planning the trip itself!
And, caregiver breaks are necessary. Respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and well-being, avoid or delay out-of-home placements, and reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect. One pilot study showed that respite may also reduce the likelihood of divorce and help sustain marriages.
But, now on to the practicalities…
- Evaluate the current situation and what is going on with your loved one. Depending on your loved one’s health and concerns, there may be times that are better or worse for a get-away. If you have control over scheduling, take this into consideration. You may also be able to work around a relative’s schedule so that someone familiar can come stay with your loved one.
- Think about taking a smaller break or “testing the waters”. This could mean trying out some daytime respite to run errands first, or taking a short weekend break nearby to see how things go. If a relative can come stay with your loved one, plan a few days together in advance to give instructions and provide a sense of the routine. This gives your substitute caregivers in either case the chance to ask questions and to get a feel for any potential concerns.
- Consider location and flexibility. Again, if you have control over where you are going, you might want to consider somewhere accessible and relatively close, in case you had to return in emergency. The idea of being out of communication may cause you more anxiety than it is worth. Nowadays, communication is possible and fairly easy from almost anywhere. Of course, a remote location overseas with spotty internet may not be best right now. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be in communication a lot while gone. Make sure to give yourself permission to take a break. But, knowing you can be reached might help ease your mind. Also, especially if going further afield or on a costly trip, look into trip insurance and ensure you could get refunded due to an emergency with your loved one.
- Think about what kind of break you need. Maybe you need to completely recharge and just sit on the beach. But, if that’s never been your style, you might enjoy a more active trip which can take your mind off of things at home and recharge you in a different way (but don’t exhaust yourself trying to do too much!). It’s also important that you can attend events that are important to you (family milestones and celebrations, for instance), though if you’re feeling obligated and overwhelmed, it is okay to say no as well.
- Now, the most important piece is to prepare…this will ensure things go as smoothly as possible AND give you peace of mind. Download our Respite Care Checklist for an overview of the steps to prepare your substitute caregivers, questions to ask and how to find respite care help. Even if you have a family member who will be coming to help while you are gone, you may want to hire professional caregivers to assist with certain tasks. This is another reason why using occasional professional respite services can be helpful…you will already have a comfort level with a company and caregivers.
- Consider hiring a geriatric care manager to help you evaluate the best options, set up and oversee the care. He/she can be your eyes and ears while away, and handle any emergencies that arise. A care manager is that extra little bit of travel insurance you need!
If you do have a situation where you want to have your loved one travel with you, EasyLiving also offers tips on senior travel as well as senior concierge/travel escort services. You can check out our past blog posts on the topic and give us a call for help any time!
Contact us at 727-447-5845 for respite care help on a regular basis or for your travel plans. When you want real peace of mind, we’re here to help!