Whether you realize it or not, when you become a caregiver, you are living someone’s illness. And living it almost every waking moment. Though many caregivers feel playing this role was one of the best things they ever did for themselves and their loved one, you cannot completely sacrifice yourself in the process.
Get help early.
You need to get help and get help early. Many experts in caregiving recommend that if you’ve been caring for a loved one for more than a month or two, it is time to consider respite care.
Tell your hospice nurse that you are interested in planning for respite care. If you are worried about leaving, your hospice nurse can comfort you by giving you an honest assessment of your loved one’s condition. Do they have months, weeks, or only days left? Of course if it is days, you’ll want to stay. But if it is weeks or months, then taking a break may be the best plan.
Care for you.
Respite care, in reality, is care for you—the caregiver. Respite care is short-term, temporary relief provided for those who are caring for a family member and it is offered by most hospices. When respite care is arranged, it can be provided in the home or sometimes your loved one may be moved temporarily to a higher care facility.
Respite provides the much needed, temporary break from the often exhausting challenges the family caregiver faces. Respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and well-being, and avoid or delay out-of-home placements. Without respite, not only can families suffer economically and emotionally, caregivers themselves may face serious health and social risks as a result of stress associated with continuous caregiving.
Caregiving takes a toll on you.
Often when we’re caught up in caring for a loved one, we don’t realize the toll that it is taking on our own personal health and well-being. We lose sleep. We become too busy to eat well, often missing meals, or we find ourselves eating more junk food. We forgo exercise. If friends or family are telling you that you need to take a break, they most likely see the toll your role of caregiver has taken on you. Sometimes others can see what we can’t. Though you don’t want to be away, and you take great joy in caring for your loved one, you do need to take breaks.
Respite care will allow you to get some much needed time away so you can continue to fulfill your role as caregiver. Ask your hospice nurse to help you schedule a long weekend or even a week and get away. Your loved one will have the care they need and you will be able to rejuvenate.
Learn more about the different types of respite care that may be available to you and your loved one.