As a family caregiver, you spend a huge amount of your time caring for your loved one. But in order to be effective in caring for your loved one, it’s important to also take care of yourself. Your physical and mental health need to be in check to maintain stamina in your caregiving journey. Every caregiver, including you, needs a break from time to time. Time to focus on self-care, relax, step away from responsibility, breathe, accomplish something for yourself, etc. If you’ve been caregiving for a while without much respite, we are going to give you some signs that indicate it’s time for you to take a break. Do you need respite? Let’s find out.
What is respite?
Before we dive into the signs that you need respite, let’s define that term. Respite care provides family caregivers for aging and ailing loved ones a break from caregiving. Most commonly, this is accomplished through professional respite caregivers who offer in-home or assisted living care for a period of time (could be anywhere from a few hours to full weeks).
How do I know when I need respite?
Too often, caregivers are focused so intently on their loved one that they forget to check in with themselves. This situation, if left unchecked, can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, a decline in physical health, and more. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or another caregiver, it may be time to consider finding respite care.
Sign #1: You’re More Short-Tempered than Usual
As a caregiver, you undoubtedly have more patience than the average person. But if you notice that you’re more likely to snap at your loved one than normal or your patience feels like it’s wearing thin, you could be in need of respite.
Respite care will give you some well-deserved time to destress, simmer down, and keep the pot from boiling over.
Sign #2: Your Health is Declining
Another common sign that you are in need of respite is feeling like you are getting sick or injured more than normal. By overextending yourself, your immune system becomes weaker and it becomes harder to fight off infections and other ailments.
Especially in a pandemic, it’s important to ensure that your health and your loved one’s health are in tiptop shape. Stress is one of the leading causes of many chronic diseases, so taking time for yourself to reduce the stress will help boost your immune system and keep you going for longer.
Sign #3: You Feel Like You Don’t Have Time for Anything Else
If you feel like you don’t have time to add a single other thing to your plate without it breaking, that may be a clear sign it’s time for respite. Time to yourself to watch a movie, read a book, write in your journal, etc. may sound frivolous, but if you can’t remember the last time you did something just for you, it’s time for a break.
Along a similar thought pattern, if you don’t have time for other family members or friends, you deserve to make some time. A strong community is crucial for the mental well-being of all caregivers. Your social connections are one of the most important things that can keep you from experiencing loneliness, help to stave off depression, and to just give you a sense of “normalcy” sometimes. If you don’t have time for these people in your life, respite care can help you make some.
Sign #4: Mistakes or Distracted Thoughts
As a caregiver, mental clarity is crucial. When it comes to maintaining your loved one’s schedule, dosing out the correct amount of medication, or just keeping up with the agenda as outlined on your calendar - all care tasks require a level of clear headedness. If you make a mistake with medication or start running out of supplies you normally would never have forgotten to restock, this is a red flag. Mistakes can be dangerous and should be a clear sign that you are in need of respite care.
Sign #5: You Can’t Sleep
Getting regular sleep is one of the biggest ways to avoid some of the dangers of the previously mentioned signs. A good night's sleep will regularly help to prevent both physical and mental health ailments. If you find you are unable to fall asleep at night, your mind races, your heart pounds, your thoughts wander, etc. care may be taking up more of your life than it deserves to.
How to Find Respite Care
We have an article linked for you here that goes through respite care in detail, but to summarize a few places to start looking for respite care, here is a starter collection of resources to support you as you explore options for respite care:
Caregiver Resource Center OC: CRCOC offers both short-term respite. Contact us today to learn more about our respite resources and how we can help you.
In Home Support Services: https://www.ssa.ocgov.com/elder/ihss
HelpGuide Respite Care: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/caregiving/respite-care.htm
Medicare home health care: https://www.medicare.gov/homehealthcompare/search.html
ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help) National Respite Network: https://archrespite.org/
Eldercare Locator: https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx