Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacation Without Guilt

Our family is going on vacation soon! We make an annual trek to the ocean to relax and recharge while indulging in dreams of living near it one day. I cannot wait to smell the fresh air, put on a sweatshirt in the cool morning, hear the waves crash along the shore and scout for sea lions lazily hanging out under the pier or out for a swim. Strolling through the shops of a little seaside town and feeling the relaxation wash over me while giggling with my kids and Hubby brings such bliss!

I mentioned our upcoming trip to a friend who innocently asked, “Is Robert coming with you?” My guilt (an ever present companion in my life) immediately sprung up and settled in comfortably, expecting a long stay.

No, Robert is not coming with us (it stings a little to say that).

The truth is, caregivers need a break sometimes. Robert lives in a care facility now but I visit him two to three times a week, bring him to our house every other weekend, keep him stocked full of supplies, take him to doctor appointments, order new equipment and make sure his facility is adequately caring for him. My phone never leaves my side in case I am called to the hospital because of a fall or asked to talk Robert into taking a shower. I am always “on” – ready to spring into action at any moment.

Compared to other caregivers, though, I have it pretty easy!

One in five households in the United States is involved in caring for someone sick or disabled (that’s over 44 million Americans!). An average of more than 20 hours per week is spent caring for a loved one and 60% of those providing care work (or have worked) outside the home while providing care.

Well, after reviewing these stats, it appears I’m the “average” caregiver. Heck, I’m even close to the average age range for a caregiver (46 years). (For those of you who celebrated my 50th birthday with me last year, I did say “close!”).

Even though the statistics think I’m average, I still think I have it easier than many, many other caregivers. I personally know several who care for a parent or spouse full-time and are raising a family in their home as well. These people are “on” 24/7 and either have only a few hours of outside help a week or do not have any sort of in-home care help at all. They are managing the care themselves without a break. These people do not get vacation days. These caregivers cannot call in sick. This is not a healthy situation for anyone. Caregivers are prone to depression (women caregivers are six times more likely to suffer from depression than those not in a caregiving role).

Caregivers need a break. Caregivers need balance. Caregivers need a vacation!

And they need it without guilt.

I have an advantage because Robert is in a care facility right now. I can make sure he is stocked with protective briefs, toothpaste and 7-Up. I’ll even make sure he has plenty of pens (the last time I went away, his pen ran out of ink!). I will work with the care facility so they know I am out of town and they will have to talk Robert into a shower for the night if he decides to argue about it. I will still be available for an emergency phone call (but will be sure they have Other Brother’s number, too, in case I can’t hear my phone while lounging around the beach).

I plan to pack my sunscreen, shorts, sweatshirts and sandals (and, of course, a good book) but I’m leaving the guilt behind. Guilt will be disappointed – even shocked – that I’m taking such a stand but it’s time to let go of that old friend and move on to healthier friends (like acceptance and balance).

Do you know a caregiver who needs a break? Are you caring for someone yourself and do you recognize these feelings of guilt about going away? How do you manage the guilt?


Unknown said...

Many caregivers never getbthw opportunity to take a break let alone vacation, so it's very cool that you can get away, but I know what the feeling of constantly being on that you speak of. Believe me. Have a great time.

Carol McClelland said...

Enjoy your vacation at the coast! I just came back from time at the coast myself - love it!! Although it must be hard/uncomfortable to pull away, maintaining your own well being helps you, your family, and your brother in the end!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thanks, Carol. Balance is very important and there's nothing that helps keep me balanced more than the ocean! Happy you had your own time enjoying the coast! :-)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Dennis, I know you and your wife do understand about caregiving! I feel very fortunate that we are able to go away for a few days. Take care, Dennis!

spa long island said...

Taking a vacation helps clear the body's stress. It's all about taking a break.