How to Plan for Vacation When You’re a Caregiver

Self-care is especially important for those who are caring for aging parents or loved ones. Now that summer is here, many friends and co-workers are planning getaways or time off.

As a caregiver, you may have so many responsibilities that it seems best not to take a break. However, protecting both your physical and mental health is vitally important. To ensure your time away is restful, be sure to plan ahead for caregiving coverage.

A good start is to hold a family meeting or conference call to discuss what type of care a loved one needs while you’re away. It’s also important to designate who will be the point of contact in case of an emergency.

When planning for your vacation, be sure to ask others for help well in advance. For example, if your elderly parents can mainly take care of themselves, you may only need someone to check in with them during the day, bring over meals or provide transportation to appointments. A friend, neighbor or volunteer from your church or synagogue may be happy to volunteer for these tasks on a short-term basis.

If your parents or loved ones need constant and skilled care, there are a few in-home care options to consider. For example, perhaps a sibling or relative can stay at the home to avoid a change of environment. This might involve paying a family member the amount it would cost to hire a professional home care aide while you’re out of town.

If your aging loved one has a daytime caregiver, another option is to ask that person to provide extended care at the home during your vacation. If this is not possible, the best solution may be to hire an experienced home care aide through a licensed agency. Your friends or local senior services center may be able to provide a referral.

A final option is out-of-home respite care. Many skilled nursing homes, assisted-living residences and senior communities offer out-of-home respite services on a short-term basis, from one day to several weeks. They provide a range of care depending on a person’s needs, from helping with daily tasks to skilled nursing. Many even have planned social activities and facilities for Alzheimer’s patients.

The National Caregiver Family Support Program, established in 2000, provides funding to states for programs that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home as long as possible. These include programs that help them locate services from private and voluntary agencies; participate in counseling, training and peer support groups; and access respite care services providing temporary relief from caregiving responsibilities.

Whether you’re planning to be away for a week or long weekend, be sure to organize important information for the person continuing your caregiving duties. You may wish to make a notebook or folder that includes the following information:

  • Primary and secondary emergency contacts
  • List of other family contacts
  • List of physicians, the preferred hospital and pharmacy (with phone numbers and addresses)
  • List of all prescribed medications
  • Legal documents including power of attorney, living trust, advance directives and Do Not Resuscitate orders
  • Insurance cards

Finally, regardless of how you spend your time off, there is no need to feel guilty about putting your health and wellness first. Remember, you have done everything possible to ensure your loved ones are safe and well-cared for during your break. By taking care of your own needs, you will be better able to take care of others when you return.

Additional resources:

The National Family Caregiver Support Program funds a variety of supports that help family and informal caregivers care for older adults in their homes for as long as possible.

The Lifespan Respite Care Program works to improve the delivery and quality of respite services for caregivers of older adults and people with disabilities.

The National Alliance for Caregiving is a nonprofit coalition of national organizations focusing on issues of family caregiving.

The Caregiver Action Network is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization providing education, peer support and resources to family caregivers nationwide free of charge.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice website maintains a comprehensive database of home care and hospice agencies searchable by location.

The ARCH National Respite and Resource Center provides information and a national locator tool to help caregivers find respite services in their community.

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