Senior caregivers know that their jobs are unique in very special ways. When a senior is depending on you for assistance or care, taking a break from work isn’t as simple as calling and speaking to a supervisor, and your work isn’t put on pause until you return. Caregivers, especially caregivers who are caring for a parent or other family member, often feel guilt or shame when taking time off. These feelings can be compounded when taking personal time puts a burden on others, especially other family members. With so much riding on your decision to take time away or simply to make time for yourself, it’s no wonder that senior caregivers are often reluctant to take leave. However, taking a break from your responsibilities as a caregiver is not shameful; in fact, taking personal time is necessary. Long term it can enhance the quality of your caregiving and ensure that you are healthy and able to continue providing exceptional care.
Exhaustion and Burnout are Dangerous
It can be easy to believe that you are the only caregiver that truly understands the needs and responsibilities inherent in your position, and this belief can be reinforced if your senior has made similar statements to you in confidence. We all want to feel special, and providing caregiver services to a loved one in need can be one of the most noble and personal commitments a family member can make, compelling you to make a commitment above and beyond the level of responsibility inherent in a more standard job. However, no matter how deeply committed you are to fulfilling your role as a caregiver, you are only one person, and there are physical, emotional and mental limits to your ability to fulfil these responsibilities. Worse, reaching and exceeding those limits can result in the loss of your ability to provide care, often suddenly, putting yourself and your senior in an unfortunate predicament. In a worst-case scenario, exhaustion and burnout can cause health problems that may permanently limit your ability to provide care.
You Are Not Alone
One of the hardest facts that a lone senior caregiver is eventually forced to face is that they’re not alone. No matter how dedicated you are to providing care for your senior, professional caregivers can provide an equitable level of care, even if your senior is initially reluctant to accept assistance outside of their family. While a professional caregiver may not share the personal family connection that you have with your senior, trained and certified professionals can ensure that your senior receives an optimal level of care and support services, allowing you to take a break and “recharge.” Establishing an external, professional source of caregiving will not diminish or eliminate your role as a primary caregiver – as we mentioned earlier, allowing yourself to accept assistance and taking a break from your caregiving duties can both bolster and enhance your ability.
Preparing For Your Break
Before you take a break from caregiving, it’s important to ensure that you have fully communicated and prepared your senior for the temporary transfer of caregiving services. Your senior likely doesn’t need to be coddled, but suddenly leaving without advance warning can cause stress and make the transition more difficult for both the senior and the professional caregiver stepping in to take your place. Begin discussing your break as early as possible, and explain that you will prepare the professional caregiver or caregiving service, allowing them to provide the same level of personalized service as you. Finally, explain that your break will allow you to take care of yourself, and will enable to you to remain healthy and capable of proving care well into the future.