Self-care is especially important for caregivers in order to provide optimal care for aging loved ones.
Now that summer is in full swing, many people are preparing for time off in the form of summer vacation or days off from their daily routine. Whether your vacation takes you to the city, beach, or the mountainside, — alone or with others — vacations are a sacred time for allowing our own mental and physical wellbeing to come first.
If you know a caregiver for an elder loved one — or are one yourself — then you understand how important that boost of “me” time really is.
To ensure your time away is worry-free, plan ahead for added coverage, and assemble a respite care network of others who can offer temporary support in your absence. Whether you’re taking time off for a week or a weekend, the following are some considerations before you go:
- Ask for help. When planning time for yourself, mobilize your personal network in advance. When you’re the primary caregiver, the best place to turn for support is other family members, neighbors, and friends. Oftentimes, people want to help but they don’t know how. Declare you need a break and ask for coverage while you’re gone. Start by having people come by to spend time with your loved one while you’re still there so they can get the hang of things and familiarize themselves with the daily routine and medication schedule. That way, you’ll be bothered less with daily questions while you’re taking time for yourself.
- Create Lists. Lists are an extremely helpful tool. When creating a series of lists, consider that the reader doesn’t know the ins and outs of caring for Mom or Dad, so be as detailed as possible. If you’re planning sporadic time off, including a list of things you could use some help with and prioritize it so others can find an option that they’re capable of taking on to relieve you for a few hours or a few days. Separate easy items like short visits and meal preparation from more involved tasks like rides to medical appointments or overseeing medications so people can pick and choose what they are able to do.
- Utilize technology that allows you to check on the well-being of your loved one. Arguably, caregivers need a break more than most, but leaving your loved one alone is not an easy choice to make. Summertime is a very popular season to purchase a Medical Alert system since families are off on vacation for weeks at a time and they want peace of mind knowing Mom or Dad is ok at home. If your loved one is unsteady or has trouble walking, consider a Medical Alert system with add-on fall detection* so the system will work even if they fall and are unable to push their button. Go for the GPS version* if your loved one is more active and leaves the house frequently so you can check on their whereabouts virtually. Utilize the interactive caregiver app for other details like checking battery life, and push notifications to alert you when they’ve pushed their button in the event of an emergency.
- Install a wireless thermostat. Depending on where you live, higher temperatures really begin to spike in the months of July and August so make a plan for your loved one that prioritizes staying cool and comfortable. A wireless thermostat can help you adjust your home to a comfortable temperature even when you’re far from home through a simple phone app.
- Research local senior centers and daycare facilities in your area. These days, many cities and towns offer seniors a designated place they can go to socialize with others and join activities like card groups, game nights, and day or evening socials. These settings will enlarge your loved one’s social circle, and help to mitigate the feelings of loneliness that creep in as they age.
- Weigh the potential of professional homecare. While it generally offers the most flexible and reliable options, homecare requires a significant financial commitment. Professional support from trained, licensed, and insured professional caregivers ease the burden on loved ones and can be crucial for seniors requiring wound care, rehabilitation from a hospital discharge, or help to manage multiple chronic illnesses. New remote patient monitoring technologies allow for many people to remain in the comfort of home while providing daily vital health information to their professional care team.
By making a plan, mobilizing a support network, and adopting helpful interactive technology, you can declare your independence from caregiver burnout and reduce your own feelings of isolation and loneliness.