If you are a family caregiver, this might sound familiar: you use up most of your vacation time to help your elderly parents with their healthcare and other needs. If your parents live at a distance, that’s where you go on your vacation. If your loved one lives with you or nearby, it seems like an overwhelming impossibility for you to get away on your own—wouldn’t you worry the whole time, so you wouldn’t even be able to enjoy that beach resort or city tour?
The Aging Life Care Association—formerly the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers—recently released a tip sheet for family caregivers who are considering getting away on a vacation trip:
When you are responsible for the care of an aging loved one, summer vacations or weekend getaways may seem out of reach. The questions race through your mind: What happens if Mom falls? Who will remind Dad to take his medications? What if there is a storm? You feel overwhelmed and cancel your plans.
But not taking time away from caregiving responsibilities can lead to bigger problems—caregiver burnout, stress, or poor health. With some extra planning and help, primary caregivers can take a break. Aging Life Care experts from the Aging Life Care Association offer these tips to ensure a loved one is safe and comfortable while the caregiver is away:
In-home caregivers: If there is not another family member or trusted friend or neighbor to fill in for you, connect with an Aging Life Care Professional who can help arrange for in-home care, monitoring, or transportation needs. Many Aging Life Care Professionals offer 24/7 service and can serve as an emergency contact while you are away. Depending on the individual’s needs, paid caregivers can assist with activities of daily living—bathing, dressing, mobility, meal preparations, house cleaning, or transportation. If you plan on using a caregiver, spend time getting the caregiver and your loved one familiar and comfortable with each other and to be sure that the caregiver is a good match.
Organize important documents: Prepare a folder or binder of information for the person/agency who will provide care and oversight while you are away. Include information on emergency contacts, physicians, preferred hospital, pharmacy, and other service providers, such as therapy services, Meals on Wheels, home care agency, etc. Also include the loved one’s medication list and other important documents such as Power of Attorney, Living Will, Advance Directives, and Do Not Resuscitate orders.
In-Home Technology: There are a variety of new technologies designed for keeping aging adults safe in their homes, including personal emergency response systems (PERS), GPS tracking devices, automated medication reminders and dispensers, as well as systems that allow someone to remotely monitor or control the usage of certain electrical outlets or appliances.
Respite care: Many retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes offer respite care on a per diem basis for short stays. If the senior needs daytime-only activities or supervision, consider an adult day care center.
“Caregiving is exhausting and difficult work,” says Jeffrey S. Pine, Aging Life Care Association past president, “but with some extra planning and research, it is possible to take some time away from your caregiving responsibilities to recharge your batteries.”
Source: Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website (www.aginglifecare.org) for more information and to access a nationwide directory of Aging Life Care Professionals.