“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.”
― Tia Walker, from The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love
The first words that I heard from Carol when I met her were “I want you to know, I take care of my husband.” You see, Carol has been taking care of her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, for nearly 7 years by herself. The last 2 years have been especially hard on her. She got help from time to time from her church but nothing more than a few hours here and there to go to an appointment or go grocery shopping.
Carol said that she heard about our respite care services at Regent Court Senior Living where I am the Community Relations Director. Carol said she wanted to learn more but was doubtful she’d use our services.
We sat and talked a little about how loving and experienced our professional caregivers are and reassured Carol that together we could craft the perfect plan of care for her husband – honoring him in our person-centered philosophy of care. She nodded and reluctantly said it was more impressive than she thought it would be. But we could tell it wasn’t creating the relief that she needed.
Then, we asked Carol about Carol.
We asked Carol what she enjoyed doing, where she enjoyed going, and who her closest friends were. It was clear that she hadn’t thought of these things in a while as she paused thoughtfully – but then she began to open up and started to share, her eyes lighting up.
We heard about how she’s always wanted to go and see the US synchronized figure skating competition with her best friends who she hasn’t spent time with in years. The apprehension we were greeted with quickly turned to optimism as Carol painted a picture of what she would do if caregiving were not her sole focus.
It was an honor to take care of Carol’s husband – and it was equally amazing to send Carol off with her bags packed to Portland, where the 2018 US synchronized figure skating championships were held at the Rose Quarter!
Family caregivers need care and nurturing in order to be in healthy relationships with their loved one, and connected to a greater community of support. It was an honor to be there for Carol allowing her to take a break.
Everyone needs a break
For caregivers taking care of a person with dementia, taking a break is more than just advice, it’s a prescription. The tasks involved in caring for a loved one with an age-related cognitive challenge can be overwhelming at times. Many caregivers feel they must be ‘strong’ for their loved one and withhold their feelings and desire for “me time” because they feel obligated to put the needs of the person they care for before themselves. All too often, this leads to caregiver fatigue, burnout, and an unbalanced life for both people involved.
The benefits of taking a break
We understand the importance of taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others. You may believe that you should be able to “do it all”, but seeking help does not make you a failure. In fact, the opposite is true. When you take care of yourself, you can return refreshed and fulfilled. Regular separations from caregiving tasks create times where you can pursue your interests and do things that replenish your energy and uplift your spirit.
Perhaps it has been too long since you’ve visited the coast or took a hike through nature. When is the last time you’ve relaxed with a good friend with no worries about your caregiving duties? When you are away from caregiving, do you feel obligated to return or are anxious about what might happen without you?
Don’t worry if the answers to those questions are not what you’d like for yourself…you are not alone and you shouldn’t be.
What is Respite?
Respite services are short-term stays, in a home-like setting for a few days or a couple of weeks, in a specialized memory care community. The person you are caring for experiences the full benefits of an active and social community along with a professional care team trained specifically for the care they’ll need.
By providing families with the option of short-term stays for their loved one, they can refresh and recharge their batteries, with peace and confidence knowing that their loved one is in a safe, engaging and loving environment. It is a gift to your loved one and to yourself to take a healthy break and smile, knowing everything is well taken care of.
We are grateful we can be there for the person living with cognitive challenges, and also for the families. We receive the blessing too!
About the author: Zeth Owen, Community Relations Director at Regent Court Memory Care in Corvallis Oregon has worked in social services since 2009 and most recently as a case manager for Senior & Disability Services. He enjoys meeting new people and spending time getting to know their stories. Zeth says that he knew his calling was working in service for elders after seeing the joy that spreads by caring for someone. Zeth says, “the most rewarding part of the job is the impact we have on our residents and their families when they know they’ve chosen the right place.”