For most people, summertime means vacation time. It’s a chance to relax, unwind and leave the worries of work behind. But if you’re the caregiver for an elderly parent, the thought of making vacation plans may feel too overwhelming, too difficult to arrange, or too guilt-inducing. Give yourself a break!
Caregiving is emotionally and physically draining. And while it may be a labor of love, it’s often full-time work—as in 24/7, 365 days a year, never-a-minute-to-yourself full time. That level of responsibility can take a big toll if you’re not attentive to your own needs.
Perhaps more than anyone else, family caregivers need regular vacations. It’s not an exaggeration to say that taking a break from caring for your loved one is essential for your own health and well-being.
The benefits of vacation
If your first reaction to the prospect of taking a vacation is to mentally list all the reasons it can’t be done, here are four reminders about why it’s so important (and good for you) to take a break:
- Reduced stress – Vacation is the “out of sight, out of mind” principle at its best. An American Psychological Association study showed that vacations reduce stress by removing people from activities/environments they associate with stress or anxiety. Another study found that not only did vacationers have fewer stress-related complaints like headaches, backaches and heart irregularities, they still felt better five weeks after returning to work!
- A healthier heart – Many studies have reinforced the cardiovascular benefits of taking a vacation, including lower blood pressure. The impact is especially important for women. One study noted that women who vacationed rarely (once every six years) were nearly eight times more likely to develop heart disease, have a heart attack, or die of a coronary-related issued than those who vacationed at least twice a year.
- Better sleep – Not sleeping well can be directly linked to high stress, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise. A vacation allows you to catch up on much-needed rest. Plus, you’ll have time to re-establish healthy habits like eating well and enjoying physical activities, all while taking time to relax and rejuvenate.
- Productivity boost – Taking a break from your caregiving responsibilities lets you refill your emotional and physical reserves. You’ll feel more energized and effective when you return—refreshed, renewed, and operating at full capacity. That’s just one reason Hearthstone Senior Living offers paid vacation time to our employees. Not only does it make them happier, healthier people, it makes them better caregivers for our residents.
Getting over the guilt
The thought of taking time away from your loved one may cause you to spiral down a rabbit hole of worry. What if Dad trips and falls while I’m out of town? What if Mom forgets to take her meds while I’m away? Who’s going to make healthy meals and drive to doctor appointments?
The guilt is real—and it can be even tougher if your loved one is so dependent on you that he or she doesn’t like the idea of you leaving. But there are ways to work through it successfully and get the vacation you need.
Start small. Have a friend or family member come over to give you a break one day or take your loved one to an adult day care center. This way, you can both get used to the idea of being apart before you go on vacation. Once you and your loved one are comfortable with these short absences, you can start planning a longer break.
Make a vacation plan
You’ll need to determine what kind of support and help your parent will need, so you can choose the right caregiving resource (more about that later). Give your loved one plenty of advance notice that you’ll be gone and let them know for how long.
Be sure to put together a folder of key information that might be needed while you’re away. Include all possible emergency contacts, a list of health care providers with phone numbers and addresses, preferred hospital and pharmacy, all insurance and prescription cards, a list of medications and dosing schedule, and other important documents such as power of attorney, living will, and advance directive.
Knowing that your fill-in caregiver has the information to handle any potential situation that may arise can help you avoid needless worry while you’re away.
Three options for care
To determine the best caregiving option, think about your loved one’s specific needs, and what kind of support will be necessary while you’re away.
- Family and friends – If your senior doesn’t need a lot of help or supervision, family and friends are a great option. They can check in during the day, make meals or handle household tasks, and provide transportation. A trusted neighbor may also be willing to help out this way. For parents who need more care, ask one or more family members to share the responsibility and set up a daytime/overnight schedule.
- In-home care – Professional caregivers can help your loved one with activities of daily living (like bathing, dressing, mobility, cooking, light housekeeping or transportation) and some are available for 24/7 in-home service. Before you commit, allow time for your loved one to get to know the person, and to make sure you’re comfortable that he or she is a good fit to meet your senior’s needs.
- Respite care – Respite care is a short-stay service provided by senior/assisted living communities. Your loved one moves in as a resident during the time you’re away. Hearthstone of Beaverton offers respite care for two weeks or more. Here, your loved one will be safe and comfortable in a cozy, home-like setting, cared for by a full-time nurse and 24-hour staff, and with many engaging social opportunities to enjoy. This is also the perfect option for those who are considering a move to our community, but want to “test it out” before transitioning to a full time resident.
Hearthstone is here for you
Ultimately, you need to take care of yourself in order to take good care of another, so we encourage you take the first steps “giving yourself a break.” If you’re considering respite care, call Jo Anne Baumann at 503-641-0911 to learn more about short stays at Hearthstone of Beaverton.
Our second Beaverton location, Hearthstone at Murrayhill, offers a full range of senior living options to fit your loved one’s needs. Independent, Assisted Living, and Memory Care services are all available depending on the level of care that may be needed.
To get a first-hand experience of our locally based, family operated communities, we invite you to call and set up a personal tour and lunch at Hearthstone. We look forward to meeting you!
12520 SW Hart Road
Beaverton, OR 97008
10880 SW Davies Road
Beaverton, OR 97008