10 Tips for Family Caregivers: Tips for Taking a Break


10 Tips for Family Caregivers: Tips for Taking a Break


“Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!”

Does anyone remember that (somewhat) old school Kit Kat commercial that had that line as the jingle? I’ll admit I found it kind of catchy! And it touches upon an important topic – especially for family caregivers – taking a break.

When was the last time you took a break for yourself? Honestly? Can you even remember?

Creating opportunities to actually take a break is not easy. Not only is it hard to find time, or to find help and support from others for you to take that time, but there is also lot of emotion – guilt, fear, shame, you name it – involved.

If my caree doesn’t get a break from their situation, why should I get a break from mine? What if she wakes up and asks for me? No one knows what he likes or needs like I do! What if something were to happen and I wasn’t there?

Any of these sound familiar?

I have no doubt you are an amazing family caregiver, otherwise you wouldn’t be feeling this way. And I will bet you know exactly what your caree needs and when, how they take their tea, and how they like their pillows fluffed. That being said, you simply cannot be there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, without taking time to break. And I’m not just talking about going to work, cooking the meals, doing the laundry, or any of the other thousands of things on the list to attend to... I’m talking about a real BREAK – from it all.

10 Tips for taking breaks

1. Do something you enjoy. Get a latte. Take a bath. Phone a friend.

2. Communicate. It may put your mind at ease to let your caree know what you will be doing, and when you will be back.

3. Get outside. Actually going outdoors, and getting some fresh air, may work wonders.

4. Do some physical activity. I know some of you may be thinking you don’t have time for that, but you will have more energy as caregiver if you do.

5. Take them regularly. And I’m talking like, every day. Even for a few minutes.

6. Call in for re-enforcement! Call a family member or a friend to ease your mind (and that guilt!) while you are ‘off duty.’

7. Plan ahead. Some feel better actually scheduling breaks or certain activities into their schedule. That way everyone is aware and you can work around them.

8. Indulge. Get your hair or your nails done. Buy a new sweater. Go out for dessert. You deserve to treat yourself every once in a while.

9. Breaks before burnout. Get familiar with the signs that burnout may be coming on, and take a proper break and rest before it does.

10. Realize you are not superman/superwoman. No one can be all things to all people all of the time. And taking care of yourself first is most important.

Research has found that breaks, taken regularly, actually contribute to the overall effectiveness of you as a family caregiver. They allow you to refresh, refuel, and re-energize. They allow you to attend to life outside of being a family caregiver. And they also allow you to care, if only just a little, for yourself. And this last point is key. Part of being a family caregiver is also about caring for your own needs – so as to avoid sickness, chronic fatigue, exhaustion, burnout, resentment, anger and depression.

Self-care is not overrated. In fact, I would say it’s the opposite. It’s underrated. When you look after yourself, you will be able to look after others that much more successfully. And it’s not being selfish, either, it’s being smart. As superman/superwoman-esque as you are, no one is the energizer bunny! So start taking care of yourself, too, before your battery burns out.

Take a break right now. Drink a latte. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Phone a friend. Do a puzzle. Read a book. Go to a yoga class. Bake cookies. Take a nap. Do something that excites you, and do it only for yourself.

You might just be amazed at how you feel afterward.

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