3 Steps to Planning Respite Care

Here’s what I know about respite care – it helps caregivers better manage the care of a loved one battling an illness. It offers temporary relief care to give primary caregivers a well-needed break to relax and have time away from day-to-day caregiving responsibilities. It can be for a weekend, a day, a few hours – either regularly or one time. Most often, respite care is provided by friends or family members. It can also be provided by paid caregivers, either in-home or residential care outside of the home.

“If you are a cancer caregiver, you are well aware of how stressful and overwhelming it can be at times. Depending on your personal situation, you may find yourself with little time for yourself, missing out on important appointments, and even neglecting your social life.”

“Respite care is vital for your emotional and physical health.” – Lisa Fayed, cancer advocate and patient educator, verywell.com

Step 1: The Decision

10 days ago, I pulled the trigger and planned a trip to visit a girlfriend in Maine. She moved over a year ago and I haven’t seen her since the move. I’ve known her for 20 years – that’s a lot of shared stories. She’s one of my dearest ‘peeps’. 

I’ve been trying to find a window of time in between treatments, doctor appointments, work and graduate exams to visit her. With everything going on, I finally landed on a date. So, Jeff and I cashed in a bunch of airline miles (travel tends to be last minute these days) and I leave in two days. I’m excited and a bit nervous. It’s my ‘birthday’ trip – I turn 45 on Friday.

Step 2: The Planning

I’m a little apprehensive to spend a birthday away from him. It’s not that birthdays are super important to me. It’s that I’m very aware of making as many memories with him as I can and that includes celebrating everyday moments and milestones together.

Grocery shopping, support at the house, pharmacy refills, care for the dogs, cooking, doctor appointments – I’ve been making calls and running errands. Feeling pretty good, I have most of it covered and backup plans in place, just in case.

Step 2a: Expect The Unexpected

Today, I learned that Jeff will be admitted into the hospital tomorrow morning for pain management. He’s been having bone pain flares and his medical team decided the optimal path to get the pain under control is to admit him for 3-5 days. So much for finding the “stable” window to get away. Crap. 

My initial reaction was to cancel the trip yet after talking through it together, we decided a break would create the relief I needed. Thankfully, one of our closest friends will help at the hospital, with driving, with the dogs and with everything else that comes up. #Relieved.

Tonight, I’ll create our list of questions for the medical team to help maneuver the hospital stay.

Step 3: Let Go of the Guilt (it’s normal)

As cancer caregivers, we know taking breaks are a necessity. For me, I get to yoga, or push myself to have tea with a friend – it gets me out of the house and into the world and offers up a little boost of fresh air that helps to create balance and perspective.

There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where Jeff and I don’t think about cancer and the impact it has on our lives. To leave for a full week – wow – that’s a luxury. I am grateful we can make it happen, right now. I’m also wondering what it will feel like.

As a cancer caregiver, I’ve learned it’s OK to get regular forms of relief and if I don’t make the time, the Crankasaurus re-appears. I want to be able to support Jeff and our family to the best of my abilities and be focused on caregiving duties. Whether it’s a lunch out, a relaxation class, a half-day, weekend or week off, respite care is about recharging, resting and regaining strength.

How do you get the respite care you need? 

Resources To Help Make Respite Care a Reality: