Standing beside, and caring for, a friend or relative fighting cancer is difficult. Not only are you coping with your own anxiety and worry, you are often the person providing emotional and physical support for someone you love who is going through a difficult time. You may find yourself caring for a spouse or parent, child or friend; you may also find yourself stressed out, sick and tired. Most informal caregivers, or people who provide care to sick loved ones, would benefit greatly from a bit of a break. Thanks to respite care services, you can receive the break you need while still being sure that your patient is being cared for.
What is respite care?
Respite care is short-term care provided to someone who is ill so that the family members can get a break from daily caregiving duties. It can serve family caregivers for any amount of time — from a few hours to a few days — and aims to provide a break so that the caregiver can get out of the house and take care of themselves.
This temporary care can be provided by a professional in-home caregiver, or you can simply ask your neighbor to come sit with your family member while you run out to catch a movie with your child. The care provider should be comfortable with any tasks that may come up during their time at your home, whether that’s cooking a meal or changing a wound dressing.
Why is it important for the caregiver?
Many times, informal caregivers have additional responsibilities. They are working full-time, coordinating care and running the home. Throw in parenting duties, extracurricular activities and homework, and there is never enough time or energy left for caregivers to take care of themselves. Caregiver stress is a real condition that, according to the Mayo Clinic, can cause informal caregivers to experience symptoms that range from sleep disruption to substance abuse, depression and physical illness.
Informal caregiving is physically, emotionally and financially taxing. If you find yourself as an informal caregiver, you must make a commitment to take care of yourself so that you can decrease your chances of mental and physical health issues.
Respite services give you the opportunity to have some time back to yourself, without worrying if your patient is safe at home. Spend a few hours going grocery shopping on your own, or go to your doctor for your annual checkup. Head to your favorite coffee shop to grab a latte, participate in a caregiver support group or reach out to your spiritual community. Your time during respite doesn’t even necessarily need to be out of the house. Perhaps you’ll spend your hour locked in your bathroom taking a bubble bath, or sitting outside in your garden enjoying the stillness.
Taking time out to remind yourself that you are more than a caregiver gives you room to reconnect with things that make you happy and decrease feelings of stress and worry. The idea is that you’ll return to your home and caregiver role refreshed and ready to take on the tasks ahead.
Why is it important for the patient?
Taking a break doesn’t just benefit you as the caregiver. Having a respite provider can also benefit the person you’re taking care of. When you head out for a few hours, your patient has the chance to engage with someone new while knowing that you are off getting some much-needed relaxation. Of course, you don’t see caregiving as a burden. While you might see it as difficult (you certainly never wanted to be walking through this experience with your partner, parent, child or friend), chances are high you see it as your duty to care for them. You take on care tasks happily. However, they can begin to feel like they are a burden if you are consistently stressed out, angry or sad — even when you think you are hiding these feelings well. When you give yourself some time out of the house, you return home emotionally and physically ready to give better care.