Dear Family Caregivers,
One of my favorite songs to sing and listen to is “Summertime,” from the 1935 opera, Porgy and Bess, by George and Ira Gershwin. It was one of the songs sung by the Choraliers, a mixed choral group of senior citizens living at Village Green in Vero Beach, Florida. My parents organized and directed this chorus for about fourteen years. Mom was their pianist, and Dad their director.
Many families plan a vacation this time of year, especially since their children and teens are out of school. Is the living “easier” for you this summer? Are you planning a vacation?
We all need a breather at times to refresh our bodies and souls. You, as caregiver, are no exception. You owe it to yourself to have some time off from hands-on caregiving. I was fortunate that my sister from California was able to spend a week or two each year to come to be near my mother. This gave me a chance to get away with my husband for a vacation, sometimes going out of the country. Even though Mom was living in an assisted care facility, I felt so much more relaxed, knowing that she was looked after by a family member who could handle any emergency.
Make a realistic plan to get some respite time-out this summer, just for yourself. Unless you plan, nothing is likely to happen. Reach out to family members or friends to see if they can give you the needed break from the responsibilities of everyday caring for your loved one. Doing so may help you stay healthy. Perhaps a week or two is not feasible, but even a day or two, from time to time, can be the opportunity to relax and do what you like.
You don’t have to go far away from home. Think what would be that “pause that refreshes” you. Would it be a movie and lunch with a close friend? What about a walk in a park, or a swim at a pool or the beach, where you’ve never had a chance to go? What hobbies did you have in the past that you haven’t done in awhile? Fishing? Golfing? Visiting a museum?
When I was in charge of the program operations at Catholic Charities, I helped administer four adult day centers. I know these types of centers offer “life saving” services for caregivers, especially those who work full-time and need a safe place during the day to bring their family member. Some adult programs now offer evening and weekend services. Look into the option of adult day programs in your area. Your loved one may enjoy the time to go to the “club” one day or more a week. The activities and socialization opportunities these day centers offer can be a boost to keeping your loved one healthier and happier.
Check into nearby assisted living facilities. Some offer twenty-four hour care during a weekend or short-term for persons with dementia. Both adult day programs and licensed facilities may give you a needed break periodically. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Alzheimer’s Association for respite services. Check out my “RESOURCES” page to find these links for both organizations.
If you have to remain at home, plan some activities with your loved one that might be different from the ordinary day-to-day schedule, such as planning a picnic lunch outside in your yard, or on your porch or patio. Get a DVD of dance music and have fun with different dance moves. Borrow travel videos from your local library, and fantasize places where you’d like to travel.
You don’t have to feel guilty to take a little time out just for yourself. Remember, the less stressed you are, the less stressed your loved one will be, too. E-mail me (Vicki@CaregiverFamilies.com) and let me know what you do to nurture yourself in the summertime.
I wish you peace, patience, and courage for your caregiving journey!