It is good to think about caregiving as something akin to running a marathon. Like in a marathon, you will want to pace yourself, making sure that you do not run too fast and burn out before the race is over. Pace yourself from the start so that you will not be overwhelmed over the years of your caregiving journey. More importantly, ask for help and take an occasional breather so that you can recharge yourself for the next leg of the journey.
Here are some effective ways to share your load or get help from others:
- Talk to a counsellor or therapist
- Talk to a neutral third party, even if it is by phone or e-mail
- Join a local or online support group
- Keep a diary and journal regularly
If you find yourself feeling angry about your caregiving responsibilities, do not keep these feelings inside. Instead, talk about it with a trusted person.
Respite time gives you a break from your responsibilities. It can help you to relieve stress. Having respite time from your role as a caregiver is not a luxury. Rather, it is a necessity.
The level of care your loved one living with dementia needs determines whether he or she can be left alone and for how long. Here are some care options that you can alternate your time with:
- Ask a family member or friend to stay with your loved one for an hour or more so that you 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 your loved one with dementia.
- Take your loved one to a day care centre. This will give you a break during the day or on some days.
- Get home care services like Eldersitter services to help care for your loved one for a few hours per week or per month.
- Hire a foreign domestic worker. There is a Foreign Domestic Worker Grant that can help you offset the cost of hiring one.
- Help your loved one join a support group.
After seeking support and arranging for help, you 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 you finish the race.
A respite zone is an area set aside just for you to relax. This space could be your bedroom, a spare room, or an office. It should be a place for you to take a break while your loved one living with dementia rests or is taken care of by someone else.
Here are some things to note while creating your respite zone:
- Find a suitable space in your home, such as a spare room.
- Use a screen or a curtain for privacy if you cannot close the door.
- Keep in mind what you want to do there, such as read, paint or write.
- Modify the space according to your needs. Keep whatever is necessary for your respite activity.
- Set aside the time to use it, such as during your loved one’s naptime, or when someone takes over your caregiving duties.
Your respite zone should be a place you created. The objective is to have a place of your own where you can relax and do things unrelated to your role as a caregiver.
You can consider surfing the Internet or indulging in leisure activities or creative projects, like painting, sewing, writing, baking, gardening or photography, as long as they allow you to take your mind off your responsibilities.
Your respite zone should be just for you. You need to feel secure in your respite zone. It is important for the people you live with to understand that this space is yours. It is not selfish to set aside space and time for yourself. Without the space, time and the opportunity to be with your own thoughts, your 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 you do not take time off and create space for yourself, what will happen if you fall sick?
Respite care is necessary for you and your care recipient’s 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. Keep a list of the family members, neighbours and friends whom you can go to for help.
If your friends want to know how they can ease your burden, ask them to:
- Call and be a good listener as you may voice strong feelings
- Offer words of appreciation for your efforts
- Share a meal
- Help you 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 you take a mental or physical break:
- Learn to say ‘no’ as setting limits can improve relationships.
- Change your mindset. Try not to think about what you do not have or cannot change.
- Appreciate what you have 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 your time and your leisure activities.
- Knowledge is empowering. Get information about your loved one’s condition.
- Share your feelings with someone.
- Keep a journal – write down three new things you are grateful for every day
- Memorise an inspiring poem.
- Pick up meditation or do breathing exercises when you are stressed.
Source: Agency for Integrated Care
Providing emotional support and physical care to loved ones can be a satisfying and rewarding journey. It can also be challenging, especially if you need to balance a job, family and housework on top of caregiving. It may even lead to feeling stressed, angry and guilty.
This resource features tips for managing negative emotions, coping with emotional burdens, self-care & respite time.