The Value of Respite - Enjoy Personal Time
By Lisa M. Petsche
For a printer-friendly version, please click here. | Help?
While the days of summer offer most of us the chance to enjoy a well-deserved break, sometimes caregivers are reluctant to take one. They know their responsibilities are constant, regardless of the season.
But breaks from caregiving duties - commonly known as respite - are essential in order for caregivers to be able to provide optimal care over time. These can take place at home or away, and involve anywhere from a few minutes or hours, to several days or weeks.
The goal of respite is to refresh caregivers physically, mentally and spiritually. The change of pace - and often environment - can renew their energy and restore their perspective. When practiced regularly, respite helps keep the stresses of caregiving manageable, preventing physical and emotional burnout.
While respite is a year-round need, the dog days of summer are the perfect time to begin the habit of taking time out from caregiving.
If you are a caregiver, read on for some seasonal self-care tips.
Lighten your load
- If finances permit, hire a yard maintenance service or a neighborhood youth to cut the lawn. Otherwise, get a mulching mower so you don’t have to bag grass.
- Buy low-maintenance outdoor plants or consider container gardening.
- Make double batches of meals and freeze half so you don’t have to cook on hot days, or stock up on pre-cooked foods that only require warming. Better yet, order takeout food during a heat wave.
- When summer sun and heat keep you indoors, research options for day care, which would allow you a significant break and your loved one additional stimulation. You might also locate a suitable caregiver support group in your area. Many take a summer hiatus, but you can learn about options for the fall.
- Contact your local office on aging or the organization associated with your loved one’s disease.
- Don’t pass up an opportunity for a vacation, with or without your loved one, whether to a friend’s cabin, a resort, an out-of-town wedding or other special event, or to visit relatives at a distance.
Enjoy personal time
- Get a portable baby monitor or two-way radios to allow you to engage in outdoor pursuits worry-free while your loved one is resting or involved in indoor activities.
- Read a magazine about a favorite summer pastime – gardening or golf, for example.
- Have a picnic in your backyard or a nearby park.
- Plan an outing to a sporting or cultural event, such as a baseball game or summer festival.
- Listen to relaxation tapes that feature your favorite summer sounds - for example, a waterfall, gentle rain, birds or other wildlife.
- Sit on your front porch or balcony or go to a park and people-watch.
- Go to the local farmers market and marvel at the offerings. Pick up a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as favorite meat, cheeses and baked goods.
- Take a drive in the country.
- Buy toiletries in a favorite summer scent, such as lily of the valley or peach.
- Grill your favorite meats and vegetables on the barbecue. Try some new marinades or salad dressings, for variety.
- Stock up on refreshing drinks, such as lemonade and iced tea, or the necessary ingredients to make your own, if you prefer.
- Buy a box of favorite ice cream treats the next time you’re at the grocery store. Or head out to your local dairy for an ice cream cone, sundae, milkshake or float.
- Bring in flowers from your garden and display them in an attractive vase.
- Purchase something seasonal for your enjoyment – for example, an indoor plant, an addition to your wardrobe, wind chimes, a bird feeder or an outdoor lounge chair. Shop by catalog or the Internet if it’s hard to get out.
- Invest in a set of satiny smooth bed sheets.
- Buy votive candles in floral or fruit scents and place them in decorative holders.
- If you don't have central air conditioning, get a window air conditioner, or oscillating fans for the rooms you use most. Keeping cool will help to prevent irritability and maintain your energy level.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and elder care issues.