How To Take a Much Needed Vacation As a Caregiver By Tobi Johnston MA, MSW, RSW and Jessica Bell BID
As summer approaches here in the East Kootenay many caregivers contemplate a vacation and time away from their caregiving role. While taking breaks is invaluable for caregivers, many caregivers see time away as an impossible dream. Legitimate issues like who will provide care while away? Is overnight care necessary? How much will it all cost? These concerns often deter caregivers from taking a much needed break. Taking a vacation can be attainable however, with careful planning. Key to having some time away is thinking through the necessary steps involved and putting a concrete plan in place.
- Select a Method of Care
As a family caregiver going on vacation, learning about respite and asking for help are key to having a break. A valid question is who will substitute the caregiving role? Extended family and friends often fill this role but also hired home care and help is available for a cost. “A family member who will fill in for you, who is as invested as you are in your loved one’s care is ideal,” says Tobi Johnston who runs the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors. Hired help is also an option, especially if there is a high level of care needed. These decisions rest on how much care is needed, how long the vacation is and what financial resources are available to a caregiver. Either way, starting early to find appropriate and safe care for a loved one is essential when planning time away.
- Check List
Creating check list to ensure detailed instructions for the caregiver and care recipient will help not only in the planning stages of a vacation but also serve to put one’s mind at ease while away. If possible try and involve the care recipient as much as possible so that they are feeling confident their needs and wants are being met. Check lists can include things like a daily routine, a weekly routine, a medication schedule, an appointment schedule, lists of favorite meals, activities and events. Make sure anyone who will provide care has copies of these list including the care recipient.
- Emergency Contact and Plan
When planning a break from caregiving it is important to designate someone to be an emergency contact or to run errands if needed. Emergency contacts should be left with a copy of the travel itinerary complete with contact information, extra keys for the house, mail, and car. Also useful is a contact list for the care recipient’s physician, pharmacy and power of attorney and insurance information. Information on who is providing care for a loved one and their contact information should also be provided to an emergency contact.
- Financial matters
Create a budget of what it will cost if hiring respite in order to go on vacation.
Ensure all bills are prepaid and that cash can be accessed easily to meet needs or emergency expenses. The costs for respite care can be shared with government services, to check for eligibility, see BC government website (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/accessing-health-care/home-community-care/are-you-eligible).
- Stock Up
Make sure your loved one has everything they need while on vacation. Ensure that the kitchen is well stocked with your loved ones favorite foods. Fill all prescriptions and check medications to ensure there is a sufficient amount. Complete laundry before leaving. Set out anything that your loved one may need so whoever is providing care in your place can find precious items for example, bathing suits, favorite board games, and TV remotes.
- Have fun.
Allow time to relax and rejuvenate. Caregiving is hard work and taking a break is essential to caring for a loved one with patience and compassion. Try not to spend every day of your holiday feeling guilty about being away. If planned properly a caregiver can take comfort in the fact that their loved one is in good hands and everything has been planned and thought out. Remember by taking time off, and planning a vacation a caregiver is returning to their role rejuvenated and more capable in their care giving role
Regardless of what kind of vacation you plan, you need to know you deserve it. So often caregivers feel guilty about putting themselves first. Repeat after me, “I deserve to enjoy myself. I will be a better caregiver if I take care of my own needs.” Now say it again and enjoy the summer months. For more on how to take a vacation when you are a caregiver contact the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors at 1-877-489-0803.