So This is What Respite Looks Like

CathyJ

So This is What Respite Looks Like

CathyJ
This past weekend, I had the greatest gift….the gift of respite. It has been quite a journey to get to the point of asking for, receiving and accepting respite. I’ve also learned how blessed I am because not all caregivers receive this gift, so I appreciate it more now than ever.

Over the course of this last year, we have received the “official” diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for mom. She has moved in with us. We have begun the process of closing down our childhood home. My family has gone from frustration, resentment, denial and anger  at mom and myself to learning, caring and supporting. It hasn’t been easy, but it is changing and moving and we are growing in love and care and knowledge.

My adult nephew has asked if he could stay nights so my husband and I could take a break. I never pushed because I was worried about the “what if” and felt like I was trying to get a handle on what was happening, only to discover the handle kept moving. And, in fairness to me, my family was only coming to terms with the realities of this disease and understanding the gravity of mom's changing abilities and needs. Because I had been aware and with mom for so many years, I was a couple of years ahead of them in the process.

I finally realized that this is a long race, not a sprint. My family will only be able to care for mom if I support them and let them, and I need and deserve time. My husband, who has been a rock through this, deserves the same. We deserve the same.

So last weekend, I typed out a 5-page list of what to do in the mornings and evenings and general information. I walked my nephew through it. I walked my sisters through it. I reminded my family that mom already spent daytimes with each sister during the weekend, so we were just added early morning, evenings, and nights to the process. I told mom we were taking a mini-vacation. Held her hand and told her I knew it was hard when we weren’t there, but she would be okay. Told her, her grandson would treasure the alone time with her. Gave her a hug, kissed her and we got in the car.

It was strange. Quiet. Hard to turn off the caregiver brain. But, I refused to turn back and I didn’t call in. I trusted my family to call me if they needed me and they did. My husband and I relaxed and turned off the worry. We slept. We talked. We enjoyed our time.

When we got home, all was okay. And, my sisters and my nephew said, "You need to do this once a month." So, I survived respite. And, I will commit to it again…and I wish I could make it happen for every caregiver.