How Do YOU Define R-E-L-I-E-F?

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How Do YOU Define R-E-L-I-E-F?

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For the past 15 years, I have been in charge of a nonprofit program that provides free respite to Alzheimer’s disease caregivers once per week in their homes.  We train volunteers about dementia and communication techniques and then they are matched with caregivers living at home with a family member.  The volunteer spends time with the individual with dementia doing disease-appropriate activities and the caregiver can do whatever they want for 3-4 hours without worry or concern.

Over the years, I have met caregivers from all walks of life and have heard their heartbreaking and inspiring stories.  Just like individuals with dementia, no two caregivers are exactly alike and each walks their own journey in their own ways.

One thing is pretty consistent though – all the caregivers I have met are striving to do the best that they can given their very difficult circumstances and challenges.  Many of the caregivers we help are themselves in their 80’s and 90’s and many are daughters who chose to quit their careers and jobs to care for an aging parent (yes – some sons too).

Since I am caring for my own mom now, this got me thinking to how we all define relief in our own ways and how giving advice to a caregiver about taking care of themselves is so tricky.  For me, if I had 3-4 hours of “me time” I would choose to go into my room, close the door, unplug my phone and not talk to a soul.  I would read or binge on Netflix.

For Mary who was caring for her husband, all she wanted to do was get OUT OF THE HOUSE and socialize. Each week, she planned time to have coffee at a cafe with 1 friend at a time. She spent her 3 hours talking and being around other people and in the world.

Harold, who was 97 and caring for his wife, chose the 3 hours to simply sleep.  As soon as our volunteer came, he went upstairs and emerged 3 hours later after a nap.  To him, it was the most restful time in his week because he didn’t have to worry about his wife getting up and falling or starting to wander.

Each of the caregivers I have met have inspired and taught me great lessons.  The greatest lesson I learned is not to judge another’s journey and way of handling this tremendous stress.  I’m thinking it would be wise and kind to outlaw the “should” when speaking to a caregiver. Most of us are trying our hardest and we all spell R-E-L-I-E-F our own individual ways.

Would love to know how you define relief for yourself?

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4 Comments

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Alilac

This article hit home! I am finding that the best relief is a few hours away... alone. My husband/caree told me that he hates feeling like I have to get away from him. I haven't had more than an hour here and there of alone time in 10 years. Is it a lot to ask?

CathyJ

Lynette, I love the reminder that we can't judge what is relief for a caregiver. Only we know our true needs. For me. relief is s someone taking mom for a 3 hour visit/drive, so I can just be by myself at the house, or take a nap, or go to the store...just do whatever fills my need at that moment...but time that is not dedicated to a task is relief to me.