Take Five: Why Breaks Are Vital for Long-Term Caregivers

Posted by Dave Tomar on April 28, 2014

Take Five: Why Breaks Are Vital for Long-Term Caregivers

Life is exhausting no matter how you live it. You’ve got appointments to keep, bills to pay and calendar dates to juggle in your head.  If you’re a long-term caregiver, you’re probably helping your care-receiver manage these same everyday tasks. Add to that the daily challenges of providing treatment, physical assistance and emotional support for another person and your life is pretty hectic.

Sure, you’d love to take a break but you really don’t think you can afford to. Well the reality is, according to an article from Democrat and Chronicle, you can’t afford not to. The cost to your health and wellbeing is simply too high. As a consequence, the cost will be high for your care-receiver. In order to provide the best possible care for somebody else, you have to assure the best possible care for yourself.

This means taking a break once in a while!

Cabin Fever

After a winter like the one just passed, we can all relate to the feeling of cabin fever. But, according to Democrat and Chronicle, long-term caregivers are especially susceptible to cabin fever, even when it’s bright and sunny out.

With all the responsibilities and challenges associated with caregiving, it’s easy to feel a sense of isolation.  Your caregiving responsibilities may detain you from quality time with family, friends and even from yourself. In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 40 to 70% of family caregivers experience depression as a result of isolation and loneliness.

There’s only one cure to cabin fever, of course. Get outside! Find time in both your regular schedule and on special occasions to get away from your caregiving responsibilities. We know it isn’t easy but neither is the alternative.

Caregiver Burnout

The alternative is caregiver burnout. That’s what happens when you don’t take the time to breathe.  According to WebMD, caregivers who are burnt out will experience symptoms such as fatigue, stress and anxiety. Often though, these symptoms can sneak up on you over time. In fact, you might be suffering from burnout without even knowing it.

But if you go too long without giving yourself a break, you, your work and your care recipient will all suffer the consequences. Caregiving requires patience, compassion and clarity. Caregiver burnout can cloud all of these impulses. Find ways to build break time into your normal routine so you can be your best self when you’re on the clock.

Be Your Own Caregiver

We admit that taking a break is much easier said than done. But there are ways to gain personal time both in your regular routine and even for the occasional vacation. The Family Caregiver Alliance offers a few strategies that will not only contribute to your overall wellbeing but will also make you a better caregiver.

First and foremost, you need to take yourself out of isolation. You aren’t alone. Enlist family and friends to provide both emotional support and, on occasion, actual assistance in performing your caregiver responsibilities. A little extra company during a visit to the park or the mall with your care-recipient could go a long way toward recharging your emotional batteries.

You also need to schedule personal time throughout the week. Make this time non-negotiable. During the hours you put aside for yourself, pursue your passions, hobbies or favorite activities…even if those activities just involve sitting on the couch and watching television.

And if you must take a more extended vacation (and you really should once in a while), consider enlisting respite care. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, respite care services exist to ensure that you leave your care recipient in good hands while refueling on a beach somewhere.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t allow yourself to be overcome by guilt in your personal time. You’ve earned it.  Make the most of it!


TAGS: breaks for caregivers