Taking a Breather - DementiaHub.SG

Taking a Breather

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It is good to think about caregiving as something akin to running a marathon. Like in a marathon, it will be good for caregivers to themselves, making sure that they do not run too fast and burn out before the race is over. Pace themselves from the start so that they will not be overwhelmed over the years of their caregiving journey. More importantly, ask for help and take occasional breaks so that they can recharge themselves for the next leg of the journey.

Here are some effective ways for caregivers to share their load or get help from others:

1. Talk to a counsellor or therapist
2. Talk to a neutral third party, even if it is by phone or e-mail
3. Join a local or online support group
4. Keep a diary and journal regularly


If one finds themself feeling angry about their caregiving responsibilities, do not keep these feelings inside. Instead, encourage them to talk about it with a trusted person.

Respite Time

Respite time gives one a break from their responsibilities. It can help one to relieve stress. Having respite time from their role as a caregiver is not a luxury. Rather, it is a necessity.

Every caregiver needs respite time. It may be hard to think of their own needs when caring for a loved one. However, if they do not, their life will be taken over by their duties, leaving them exhausted and burned out.

The level of care a person living with dementia needs determines whether he or she can be left alone and for how long. Here are some care options that caregivers can alternate their time with:

• Ask another family member or friend to stay with the person living with dementia for an hour or more so that the main caregiver can take a break.

• Family members or friends may attend courses subsidised by the Caregivers Training Grant to learn more about how to care for the person living with dementia.

• Take the person living with dementia to a day care centre. This will give caregivers a break during the day or on some days.

• Get home care services like Eldersitter services to help care for the person living with dementia for a few hours per week or per month.

• Hire a foreign domestic worker. There is a Foreign Domestic Worker Grant that can help caregivers offset the cost of hiring one.

• Help the person living with dementia join a support group.

After seeking support and arranging for help, caregivers must make an effort to take time off (for example, once a week) to care for your personal needs. Remember, caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. It helps to see respite time as a means to help caregivers finish the race.

Respite Zone

A respite zone is an area set aside just for caregivers to relax. This space could be one’s bedroom, a spare room, or an office. It should be a place for caregivers to take a break while the person living with dementia rests or is taken care of by someone else.

Here are some things to note while creating a respite zone:

• Find a suitable space in their home, such as a spare room.
• Use a screen or a curtain for privacy if caregivers cannot close the door.
• Caregivers have to keep in mind what they want to do there, such as read, paint or write.
• Modify the space according to their needs. Keep whatever is necessary for their respite activity.
• Set aside the time to use it, such as during the person living with dementia’s naptime, or when someone takes over the main caregiving duties.

A respite zone should be a place caregivers created for themself. The objective is to have a place of their own where they can relax and do things unrelated to their role as a caregiver.

They can consider surfing the Internet or indulging in leisure activities or creative projects, like painting, sewing, writing, baking, gardening or photography, as long as these activities allow them to take their mind off their responsibilities.

A respite zone should be just for the caregiver. They need to feel secure in their respite zone. It is important for their families under the same roof to understand that this space is theirs. It is not selfish to set aside space and time for themselves. Without the space, time and the opportunity to be with their own thoughts, their caregiving journey may be harder than it has to be.

Taking care of a person living with dementia can be a difficult job. However, if one does not take time off and create space for themselves, what will happen if they fall sick?

Respite care is necessary for caregivers and their care recipients’ well-being.

Activities & Relationships Outside the House

Caregivers do not have to entirely change their usual routines and give up their own activities. There are respite care and support services that can give caregivers a break. Encourage them to keep a list of the family members, neighbours and friends whom they can go to for help.


If families and friends want to know how they can ease one burden, the main caregiver can ask them to:

• Call and be a good listener as he/she may voice strong feelings
• Offer words of appreciation for one’s efforts
• Share a meal
• Help one find useful information about community resources
• Show genuine interest
• Stop by to visit, send cards, letters, pictures, or humorous newspaper clippings
• Share the workload if they can

Other Ways to Take a Break

Here are some other suggestions to help one take a mental or physical break:

• Learn to say ‘no’ as setting limits can improve relationships.
• Change the mindset. Try not to think about what one does not have or cannot change.
• Appreciate what one has and can do for the moment.
• Find simple ways to have fun – play a board game, organise family photos, listen to music, read about an inspiring person.
• Learn ways to better manage one’s time and one’s leisure activities.
• Knowledge is empowering. Get information about the person living with dementia’s condition.
• Share one’s feelings with someone.
• Keep a journal – write down three new things one is grateful for every day
• Memorise an inspiring poem.
• Pick up meditation or do breathing exercises when one is stressed.

Downloadable Resources

The following resource contain bite-sized information on Taking a Breather that you may download and/ or print:

Click on the image below to download in English or select another language.

A Caregiver’s Guide to Avoid Burnout


  1. Changi General Hospital. (2020, October 5). Managing agitation and aggression in dementia. HealthHub. https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/843/managing-agitaton-and-aggression-in-dementia
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