Being a caregiver to my mother was the most rewarding experience of my life. All the years she dedicated to me, I felt like I was able to give back and be there for her. We see our parents, and loved ones as these warriors of life, like the rock that cannot be shaken, and seeing them compromised, and relying on us can be difficult to face.
I remember sleeping near her each night to be at the ready should she need me, and I rarely left the house for fear of something happening, and nobody is there. Caregiving is emotionally, and physically draining for anyone and often leads to putting one’s own needs on the back burner. You start to feel guilty for trying to get more sleep, leaving to run your own errands, and even eating a meal. I was starting to feel incredibly run down not knowing whether I was coming or going, and realized how could I be there for her if I wasn’t caring for myself?
Respite care is the opportunity for someone else to step in to give the primary caregiver a break. Sometimes this is another family member, a home health nurse, or an adult day care center. Employing help is not only OK, but it’s an opportunity to take time away to care for yourself. Let your loved one know that you’ll be taking some time away, and reassure them that you’ll let the person filling in know exactly what to do. If possible, introduce them to their new caregiver in advance so they can become familiar.
Take this time to rejuvenate, and do something special for yourself. Connect with a caregiver support group to share experiences, and know that you’re not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association website offers a support group locator to help find one near you. (https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-support-groups.asp#chapter)
Journal your plans and ideas to help stay organized, and not feel as though you’re losing control. Discuss with your medical provider how you can change your diet or supplement regime to keep up with the physical demands of your role.
Getting enough exercise is essential to releasing endorphins and improving serotonin levels. You’ll notice after a good workout or even a brisk walk that your mood improves, and you’ll feel a sense of wellbeing.
Above all, don’t feel guilty for taking time away. Returning refreshed will get you back to your loved one at an even greater capacity. When friends, and relatives offer to help, don’t be afraid to take them up on it. A trouble shared is a trouble halved, and you’ll find that others are more than willing to take over if they know you need it.