How can I get a break from caring for my mother 24/7?

3 answers | Last updated: Mar 31, 2012
Verland asked...

I am taking care of my mother in my home. She is almost blind and can't fix her own meals. How can I get a break from taking care of her 24/7?

Expert Answers

It's good that you recognize that you need regular breaks, because as a caregiver, you are at high risk for burnout.

It's difficult to advise you without knowing the details of your situation or the services available in your particular area, but I do have a few suggestions. First, consider whether there are friends or family members who might be able to pitch in. For example, if your mother has a friend who is healthy and has time on her hands, she might be willing to come by once a week to visit with your mother and make her lunch or dinner while you go out. Depending on your mother's needs and physical condition, a responsible teenaged grandchild may be able to do the job. If you have siblings who live far away and so can't give your mother daily care, ask them to come for a weekend -- or longer -- now and then, to take over while you take a break.

Next, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, and ask about respite services and other resources for seniors. Many senior centers offer regular day care programs. Your mother is likely to enjoy the opportunity to socialize, take classes or participate in crafts and other activities that such centers usually offer. If you don't have access to any of these services and money permits, consider hiring a companion to stay with your mother when you are out, or to just drop in and prepare meals, if your mother can stay on her own.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Community Answers

Epb answered...

We find that music can be a good way to keep our mother occupied long enough to take a 15-20 minute re-charge in another room. Make sure it's music you know they can sing along to, that they enjoy. We also remind ourselves that this is not a permanent situation, and to simply knock off any "Wonder Woman" ideas we have about being the perfect caregivers. This helps a lot. Don't try to do it all, identify the things that are logistically do-able and necessary, and group the others into a "that'd be nice if the opportunity presents itself today." Let it go. We're all our own worst enemies when it comes to perfectionism -- what would make you happier and more relaxed, vacuuming the rug again or sitting quietly enjoying a cup of tea or coffee? Unless the rug is starting to crunch when you walk on it, it can probably wait! Or maybe it'll be easier/more enjoyable a task after you've relaxed with that cup of tea? We've adopted a "reward first, task second" approach that's much nicer to ourselves. If a relative visits and criticizes the sorta crunchy rug, we laugh and tell 'em "great, you're here, take mom out on the porch so I can finally give it a quick vacuum!" Keep it light and happy, you're doing great, if anyone has a problem with how you're doing it they're welcome to give it a shot themselves. I'd also recommend Pema Chodron's book, "When Things Fall Apart," a wonderful collection of essays about coping gracefully and peacefully with life's sharp curves and hard knocks.

Judyo answered...

Dear Verland, I started caring for both of my parents about 3 1/2 yrs ago,at first I tried to do it all on my own,but soon found I did not have the energy to do so, as well as that they needed more professional care than I could give them. I employed a home care agency,which has been wonderful in every way. We lost my Dad in June '10,of pancreatic cancer. I could never have given him all the care required without the help of the aides the agency provided me. My parents Medicare & Social Services benefits pays the agency in full,otherwise I would not have been able to keep my parents at home. Over the past year my mother's dementia has progressed & she now requires 24h care. The agency has provided all the assistance I need for Mom,including adding hours so I can have respite time away from our home for a day or two at a time. I suggest you look into home care agency's in your area for whatever needs you have regarding your Mom. The agency's can provide you with hours that range from one hour a day,to help with meals or personal needs for your mother, up to 24hr care if needed later on. All you have to do is let them know what your needs are. You should be able to find many agencies in your area by calling your local office for the aging--asking friends for references, or simply looking in your phone book & researching. My recommendation would be the office for aging. Good Luck & God Bless