Jenkintown, Pennsylvania – This is the time of year that many of us look forward to summer vacation – a much-needed break from our day-to-day responsibilities and an opportunity to rest, have fun and re-charge. Unfortunately, it is often the people who are most in need of some time off – those with the largest amount of work and/or family responsibilities – who find it the hardest to get away. Family caregivers – spouses caring for husbands or wives, or adult children or grandchildren caring for elderly relatives – often fall into this category.
If you are the part-time or full-time caregiver for an elderly loved one, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed, or even a little guilty, about leaving town for a few days or weeks. However, it is also important to understand the significance of maintaining your own health and how taking vacations – even short ones – can do wonders for warding off the physical and emotional effects of caregiver stress. With proper planning, and use of the right resources, it is possible to enjoy a fun and relaxing trip knowing your loved one will still receive all of the care they need. Here are a few suggestions to help you get away.
If your loved one already resides in a retirement community, assisted living or nursing facility, make sure you inform their care team of your travel plans. Leave behind a copy of your itinerary, your contact information, as well as the contact information for another local family member or friend to call in the event of an emergency.
If your loved one still lives in their own home, but you regularly assist with errands such as grocery shopping or provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, you will need to find someone who can reliably fill-in for you while you are gone. Another family member, friend, neighbor, or a paid home health caregiver are all options to consider.
No matter who will be assuming your responsibilities while you’re away, you will want to be sure to sit down and write out a detailed list of everything you do in your role as caregiver along with instructions of when and how you perform each task. Include a list of all of your loved one’s doctors with contact information, a detailed list of medications and dosage instructions, and who to call in the event of an emergency. Leave one copy of this information home with your fill-in caregiver and take a copy with you. Again, leave behind a copy of your travel itinerary and your emergency contact information.
If you are providing full-time care for your loved one, it may be in both of your best interests to hire professional respite care. There are different kinds of respite care to consider; the best option will be determined by the amount and type of care your loved one requires.
• In-home respite – provided by non-medical home care agencies, such as Visiting Angels, to help with hygiene, meal preparation/diet monitoring, light housekeeping, errands, shopping and companionship. In-home care can be part-time or full-time based on the needs of the person receiving the care
• Adult day-care centers – if you can arrange transportation and overnight care for your loved one, many churches and community centers provide adult day-care services to care for and engage seniors during the day
• Short-term nursing homes – some nursing homes will care for patients on a temporary basis in the event their regular caregiver is out of town
• Day hospitals – if your loved one requires medical care, some hospitals have programs that provide care to patients during the day. Again, you will need to make other arrangements for overnight care and transportation
Everyone is entitled to a break now and then. For a family caregiver, taking a vacation may mean extra planning and expense, but it is also a necessity if you are to stay at your mental and physical best as you care for your loved one. To learn more about the support services available in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or Visiting Angels at 215-938-7201 or www.visitingangels.com/jenkintown.