I receive many calls from family caregivers who are wanting to take a holiday during the summer months. There can be a great deal of stress for both the caregivers and the person they are caring for around the idea of holidays. There are legitimate concerns and worries such as, “Who will look after my Dad overnight?”; “Can Mom afford private care?”; “My Mom has dementia and doesn’t want anyone else to care for her but me.” Probably the most common statement I hear though is, “I feel so guilty leaving them while I go away on holiday!”
Taking a break is really important for caregivers. Without time away from caregiving duties, feelings of resentment and burnout may present themselves more readily. Being able to trust someone else to take care of an aging relative or your spouse, gaining clearer insight to the situation at hand and reconnecting with yourself and your family are just a few ways caregivers can benefit from a holiday.
Here are some tips to make going on vacation a little easier:
Clone yourself: OK, maybe not literally but do find a replacement caregiver or a network of support. It might be family or friends or you may decide to hire someone. It all depends on how much help and care is required, the length of time away and financial resources available.
Checklists: It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared! Having detailed instructions for the caregiver will help ease your mind while you are away. Build in time for the care recipient to add to the checklist and enough lead time for everyone to feel comfortable with the care plan while you are away.
Financial matters: Make sure all bills are pre-paid and that cash can be accessed easily to meet expenses or emergency expenditures.
Emergency contact: Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers and places of where you are staying at home with the caregiver and another trusted source. Contact your aging relative’s physician, case manager and/or head nurse prior to leaving and let them know you will be travelling and how they can reach you in an emergency.
Emergency plan: Talking about what needs to be done in a medical emergency such as a stroke or broken hip is important. A signed health care proxy or representation agreement should be in place and its whereabouts known.
And please, promise me and yourself not to feel an ounce of guilt about being away!
Enjoy yourself knowing that your loved one is in good hands and that you deserve a break from your vital role as a family caregiver.
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs regularly in the Comox Valley Record.