The Importance of Respite

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Stepping away can be one of the biggest challenges a caregiver faces.

Love, guilt, and practicality ("How can I teach someone to do everything I do? I'll just keep doing it myself.") can create a perfect storm of fear, obligation, and excuses.

But respite care is important to the physical and mental health of the caregiver and the other relationships in their lives. When being a caregiver has been your sole focus for an extended time, it’s easy to forget that you, too, are a person with needs and goals. You need to find balance.

What are some of the benefits of respite?

Health: Caregivers can suffer from exhaustion, stress, isolation, depression and physical issues such as aches and pains, headaches or a cold you can’t shake. If you get sick, who will step in for you? Take a break and keep yourself sharp, happy and healthy.

One-on-One Time: Respite gives caregivers a chance to spend uninterrupted time reconnecting with your other children or with your spouse. Plan a fun (or relaxing or romantic) activity and focus on your other relationships, your support system and yourself.

Connect: Caregiving can be very isolating. Take some respite time to meet up for lunch with friends and catch up on your lives, face to face. Find a support group where you can blow off some steam with other caregivers.

Independence: It’s hard for you to leave; it’s hard for them to see you go. But a routine respite schedule can help ease separation anxiety for the caregiver and their loved one. It’s also good practice in the case of an emergency that demands another caregiver step in.

Better Care: Think about returning to your home or work after a vacation. You have a fresh perspective, new ideas, and answers to nagging problems that were just too close to be solved before. Spending time away from caregiving duties will give you renewed energy, let you reset your thought process, and make you a better caregiver in the long run.

The Practical Side: The need for groceries, haircuts, dentists, and shoes doesn't disappear just because you are a caregiver. (Organize your errands so you can build in a little “me” time and make the most of your respite.)

There are several options for those who are seeking respite services. Adult day programs and in-home care organizations and agencies can provide ongoing, regularly scheduled care. Family, friends or neighbors can step in for an hour or two.

So, caregivers, give yourselves a break. Nurture your own identity. Take a little Me time.

Taking care of yourself means you can give back the best care for everyone you care for.

The THRIVE Network offers Afterschool, Saturday and Sunday Respite programs. Learn more at www.thethrivenetwork.org/index.php/our-services/.

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