“Once in a while in the life of a caregiver, the chance of a few days away from home reveals itself. A respite break might come from a community care home or it might be arranged with the help of family and friends who have offered to stay with a loved one for a few days,” says Donna Thomson, caregiver to her son Nicholas. However, she admits it is difficult to leave a loved one when you are their primary caregiver. Donna gives the following advice for taking a break as a caregiver.
“It doesn't have to be that hard. If you DO have an option to take a break, plan it carefully to ensure that both you and your loved one will actually relax and enjoy the refreshment of change.”
Slowly Ease Your Loved One Into The Idea Of You Taking A Break
Donna’s first piece of advice is to slowly ease your loved one into the idea of you taking a break. If your respite plans involve your loved one staying at a care home, Donna suggests visiting the home a few times with your loved one before you leave. Extend the time you stay with each visit. Introduce your loved one to the staff and engage in activity with other residents. Make sure your loved one feels comfortable in the new environment.
Donna suggests writing out a care plan for your loved one and keeping paper copies as well as a copy online. She recommends including:
- Full Name
- Address and Telephone
- Date of Birth and Health Card #, Social Security #, Insurance Information
- Physician names and contacts
- Emergency Contacts
- Diagnoses and current medications with times and doses
- Recent health history (if there are any recent illnesses or ongoing health concerns
- A day/night outline of routine activities
- A calendar of planned activities while you are away
- A list of likes/dislikes including food preferences, TV shows, etc.
Keep In Touch While Away
Donna’s next bit of advice is to make a plan of how you are going to keep in touch with home while you are away. “You may ask carers to update you via email once a day - make sure you list the type of information you want reported. You may wish to know about your loved one's mood, or what they ate. Don't assume that carers will know what to tell you - they won't unless they're told,” says Donna. The goal is to ease stress while you are away. Scheduling a call time could ease your loved one’s mind knowing when they are going to speak to you. Or it can be your choice to only speak to your loved one in a case of emergency --- the situation is up to you.
Cost of Care
Donna suggests researching different charities to inquire about covering the cost of care while you are away. She lists a few resources in her original post.
Keep A Photo Journal
The last piece of advice is to keep a photo journal of all your experiences while you were away. You can relive your holiday and show it to your loved one emphasizing that they helped give you a break.
Donna realizes that it may be difficult for a caregiver to take a holiday. She says, “Nevertheless, having these plans in place (or at least thinking about them) will put you in a better position if you ever HAVE to leave home suddenly.”
Share Donna’s advice with a caregiver!