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7 Ways to Get the Most from Caregiver Respite

By Gay Falkowski
Respite! For many caregivers, time away from a care partner is an opportunity to unwind, recharge, and focus on outside activities. But simply taking time away from care responsibilities isn’t always enough. For example, research has shown for respite to be most effective, caregivers should:
 
  • Use respite regularly
  • Reserve blocks of time for respite
  • Devote two days of every week for respite if possible


Here are some other ways caregivers can help get the most benefit from respite:
 
1. Consider using respite services early in your caregiving career.  When starting out, many caregivers believe they can and should “do it all” alone for as long as they can. They don’t think about asking for help. However, according to many studies, caregivers get the most out of respite when they use it before they become exhausted, isolated, and overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Caregivers who wait too long to ask for help may feel so burdened they can’t go on. Maintaining friendships, social activities, health, and overall life balance is important, as these features are difficult to regain once they are lost.
 
2. Frequent and regular respite time gives you something to look forward to and makes the respite more effective, according to research studies. Temporary and short-term respite does not give caregivers the kind of relief they need.
 
3. Think about how you want to spend your respite time. Dissatisfied caregivers spend more time than they would like doing tasks such as housework, shopping, eating, watching TV, or working on tasks they don’t enjoy. The most satisfied caregivers did enjoyable things they wanted and planned to do.
 
4. Set a concrete, attainable goal for how you want to spend your respite time. Choose activities that:
 
  • You’ve always enjoyed doing
  • You did before becoming a caregiver but haven’t done lately
  • Have religious or spiritual meaning for you
  • Reduce stress
  • Fulfill a need. If you are sleep deprived, your goal may be as basic as taking a very long, uninterrupted nap.
 

5. Make arrangements so you can carry out your respite plan in the time frame you desire. What do you need to do in order to fulfill your goal? Who will step in to provide care while you are away? Do you need to book appointments, schedule time with friends, or make reservations?
 
6. Hold yourself accountable. Review your progress periodically. Are you meeting your respite goals? If not, what are your obstacles and how might you overcome them?
 
7. Respite is most effective when it is used with other forms of assistance. Caregivers need education, emotional and social support, and a sense of belonging. Caregivers are advised to seek help and suggestions from professionals and others who are very experienced caregivers. Caregiver support groups may provide the kind of understanding that is needed.