By nature, those who care for loved ones tend to be known as “givers”. They are constantly putting their own needs last on the list while they devote time, energy and love to serving a beloved family member or friend. Caregivers of individuals with dementia have an added layer of challenges as they strive to take care of a loved one, often an aging parent, while juggling all kinds of additional responsibilities and other commitments, including work and family obligations.
We hear from many family caregivers who tell us they simply can’t remember the last time they had a break from the day to day responsibilities of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, or other dementia. For many, it has become a 24/7, 365-day commitment, a lifestyle devoid of “down time” let alone a weekend out of town or vacation.
If this description fits you, maybe this should be the holiday season when you give yourself the gift of time; time to do those things that you have been neglecting over the past months, or even years. You can do this by scheduling some “respite” time for your loved one at a local memory care community. An ideal length of time for respite is a few weeks or more. This allows you to shift gears and start going about the business of caring for the caregiver; in this case, you.
Here are some key benefits of respite care that you should know about:
- Respite gives you time to care for yourself. That means both your physical self and your emotional self. That means scheduling a physical as well as considering booking some time with a good therapist.
- Respite gives you time to reconnect with friends and the world around you. Chances are you have lost touch with friends and are no longer
- Respite provides your loved one with a change of environment. Studies have shown that the change of surroundings can help stimulate memory. It can improve physical health as well.
- Respite gives you an opportunity to evaluate local memory care communities.
This last point is an important one. Not all memory care communities are the same, nor are their respite programs. Remember that respite should be a meaningful experience for your loved one, not just a holding tank while you are away. Therefore, be sure to evaluate all your potential respite sources. Ask questions. Find out what activities your loved one will be included in. Be prepared to say “no” if you don’t get the answers you’re looking for.
Family caregivers who utilize our communities’ respite care services often tell us that the break has left them with a renewed sense of purpose and has given them the time they need to recharge and gain back some peace of mind that had eroded over time. They also report that their relationships with friends and family members have improved as they have been able to reconnect with those they had lost touch with.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, now is a good time to organize some time off. Why not schedule a few weeks after the holidays? Make 2020 the year that you give yourself the gift of time. It may be the most important gift that you and your loved one will receive.