Priority Break Me: Self Care 101 – How To Vacation On A Budget
Talking about a vacation to a Caregiver is almost like cursing at them, or at least it has the same offensive reaction. Many of us caregivers are caring for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves and may require us to hire a professional caregiver if we were to take a vacation, and that is only part of the logistics of it all; making the commitment to take the vacation adds a layer of emotional fortitude many caregivers are not comfortable with. Guilt creeps in and like a child led by an adult in to nap time with agreeable resistence the caregiver convinces themselves they should not be vacationing or having any semblance of joy while they are caring for their loved one, God-forbid they enjoy life while their loved one is suffering.
Many of us caregivers resign to a life of servitude as we settle into accepting our loved one can require our assistance indefinitely and with that recognition we give up on a quality of life. Not many caregivers will admit openly they “check out of life” so they are able to cope with what can be a very heavy burden. Not thinking about life outside of caregiving means we don’t have to feel the pain of disappointment or the reality of life as we knew it before becoming a full time caregiver happened. Settling into that mindset is very dangerous for the caregiver and the loved one. Many caregivers find themselves guilty of neglect or even worse as some instances in the news have shown great harm coming to a loved one because the caregiver snapped, those are extreme cases but a reality nonetheless.
Health of the family caregiver is very important and understanding the different areas of our lives that need to be addressed and managed is the key to living a full and quality life. Our mental health, spiritual health, emotional health, and physical health are all very important. Vacationing addresses all of those parts of who we are. How do we find the time to take a well needed vacation? How do we afford a vacation on a limited budget?
Vacationing for the family caregiver must be very well planned and most importantly saved for but where do we start? Who will care for our loved one while we are away? Do we take them with us? There are so many questions to answer before we can even think about leaving. Let’s start with the basics:
Enlist The Help Of An Accountability Partner
I would say a spouse would work too but honestly our spouses many times are just as likely to backout of the much needed vacation as well. An accountability partner will make sure you are accountable to yourself and that you are keeping your self care as the most important part of your caregiver journey. Your accountability partner will be there to help you to do the fun parts of the planning as well as the gruesome parts, like interviewing professional caregivers until you find the right one and prying your hands from the door jam when it’s time to leave. Taking a vacation sounds like an overwhelming responsibility and it is when you are responsible for the full time care of a loved one. Hiring a professional caregiver sounds like really hard work and it is in the beginning but once you do it you more than likely have a long term relationship that establishes and you won’t likely find yourself needing to repeat the process too often.
Decide What You Want To Do & Research The Cost
Many caregivers fizzle out at this point. Finding out the expenses of having such a luxury can discourage even those who don’t care for loved ones full time that’s why so many people start vacation accounts. There are so many ways I have learned to raise money for taking a vacation, and there are so many people who are willing to give you donations to do so. Having an item to trade for the donation is always great humor intended there, think bake sale or making crafts to sell. If you have a wide social base this is an easy task as you can spread the word around that you are raising money for a well deserved get away and would like help raising money. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, community people you can find while standing outside your local grocery store…the Girl scouts don’t have the market cornered you know. Be innovative and creative. You can also decide to squirrel away a few bucks here and there into a saving account or a jar in your closet whatever your choice. Sometimes starting small takes away the intimidation of coming up with the money as well.
To Hire Or Not To Hire a Professional Caregiver?
There are many things to consider when hiring a professional caregiver including are they Bonded. Bonded means they are insured and a thorough and extensive background check has been done. Next a caregiver must consider what type of professional caregiver they want:
Homemaking and companionship care: This can include meal preparation, errands, incidental transportation, light housekeeping, companionship and medication reminders.
Personal care: Personal care services generally include bathing, grooming and hygiene, toileting and incontinence, and special meal preparation.
Specialized services: Specialized services may include around-the-clock emergency response, live-in care, and oftentimes care for clients with Alzheimer’s and other dementia issues.
Once you decide to hire the caregiver working on your next step requires a commitment to yourself. Many caregivers do not take necessary breaks while caring for a loved one. Sometimes caregivers can find themselves justifying why they should wait until another time to take a break or guilt tripping themselves into not taking the break at all. That’s why step 1 is very important.
Start preparing your loved one and yourself to transition into having the professional caregiver become part of your “Home Care Team”.
Have the caregiver to come in and spend time with your loved one while you are there in the home. This makes the bonding a little easier and allows you to see if the caregiver is a good fit. Remember your loved one will not always like the caregiver and although that should be a factor, it should not be the only factor. I had one family caregiver whose mother wouldn’t choose any professional caregiver she brought into the house. I reminded her about her own health and needing to take a break, and how if she winds up in the hospital her mother will likely not have a choice who will care for her. Sometimes we must make the hard choices. If the professional caregiver is qualified, attentive, warm, and you trust them that is reason enough to hire them.
Take The VACATION!
Pack your bags kiss your loved one and take the vacation. Don’t beat yourself up about leaving, understand your mind, body and soul needs rest and if you don’t take the rest you could wind up in an involuntary vacation in the hospital with IV and all meals included, provided you are insured. So many of us wind up putting off and putting off a break until we suffer a “breakdown” or burn out. We are coming up on the summer season and although planning a vacation is good a year in advance you still have options:
Daycation – Taking a day away and touring locally like museums, state parks, historical sites or hanging out fishing at a pond or lake. Taking a boat ride from a local marina or enjoying a tour bus ride, you would be surprised the many things we don’t know about where we live that we could learn from taking a tour bus ride in our city.
Overnighter - Traveling an hour or two away from home and staying at a bed and breakfast or a boutique hotel overnight are great ways to feel refreshed. Sometimes there is less traffic than traditional hotels and there is a more personalized staff onsite. Call and explain you’re a caregiver looking to take a little getaway and ask what could they suggest as sights to see while you are in town. Sometimes you will get little extras because believe it or not many people appreciate what we do, some are even in the same role.
A Weekender - Weekenders are great ways to feel like you have had an extended vacation and choosing a location a little further away gives you the illusion that you are actually leaving your town and having an real getaway. Choosing hotels with complimentary breakfast menus are a great way to save on meal costs and some hotels even provide a light dinner option included in your room costs. Seek out affordable entertainment while you are researching and deciding where to go. Leaving on a Friday and arriving on a Monday morning feels like you have been away for a week if you do it right.
Midweek Getaway - These types of vacations work in multiple ways, first because the rates are normally cheaper for professional caregiving during the week, and so are hotels and other entertainment because people don’t normally travel weekly and room upgrades are so possible during the week. There are less crowds and less likely hood you will encounter children, especially if you vacation during the school year and not on a school holiday. This option is more attractive to those who do not have small children or who are needing a break from their own children *wink*.
Whatever your choice is choose to be good to you that is what is most important. You give and sacrifice a lot and you deserve to have a break whenever the opportunity arises and that includes creating the opportunity when it seems impossible. Our self-care must always be a priority and we have to be deliberate about looking after our own wellbeing.
As we draw closer to the summer vacation season I will be sharing a #SummerLifeSeries this will be the second year I’ve done it and it will give you great tips for yourself and for your loved one this season to change how you enjoy your lives on the lighter side of this journey. Stay tuned to our social media pages and stop by here HOMAGI.Org and look for the Summer Life Series tab starting in May of 2016.
May today bless us with whatever makes us successful and may God bless us real good.