When was the last time you had a break from taking care of your elderly parents? Can’t remember? Then it’s been too long.
Let’s face it. Even though you love Mom and Dad dearly and believe taking care of them is the right thing to do, sometimes it wears you down. You haven’t had time for yourself in a while. Your family is getting tired of frozen pizza or mac n’ cheese out of a box.
You’re doing your best, but between getting Dad or Mom washed and dressed every day, rehab and doctor appointments, and laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning, you’re struggling to keep up.
There aren’t enough hours in the day.
If your best friend were in this situation, you’d say, “You’re stressed out and running yourself ragged. You need to get some respite care—have someone else come in for an afternoon or two every week to take care of your Dad—you need a break.” You’d really believe your advice and encourage your friend to call for help.
But why is it different when it’s you?
When your friends and family ask how you’re doing and encourage you to take a break, you say, “No, I’m fine. We’re managing. Really.” But what you’d really love is to have an afternoon to yourself, to do nothing, take a nap, catch up on your own chores, or meet a friend for lunch.
Instead, you tell yourself, “Having a stranger come in would be too upsetting to Dad” or “Mom never got a break when she was raising me. Why should I need a break?” But don’t forget, your parents had babysitters for you. And you were fine. You might even have looked forward to seeing the babysitter. Had fun with the babysitter. Your elderly parent will be fine, too.
Consider the alternative.
Still struggling with the idea? Feel too guilty about wanting a break? Then consider the alternative. If you get too stressed out, you’re likely to be frustrated and irritable with your parents. How is that better? Similarly, if you’re stressed and exhausted, you’re more likely to get sick. Then who will be taking care of your parent? Somebody else.
Plan for the long run.
When you’re immersed in the situation, it’s hard to step back and think, “Can I keep this up for another six months? Two years?” But when the pace isn’t sustainable—either emotionally or physically—you need to reconsider your plan to go it alone. Building in some regular respite care—from a friend, a church member, a companion or home health aide isn’t an act of selfishness. It’s an act of love and responsibility. You are planning how to take care of your elderly parent long-term. Taking breaks will help you go the distance.
To learn more about how respite care works, visit the HelpGuide. For ideas about where to find respite care resources, check out local home care services online or visit the MN Home Care Association for a list of services.