By Mike Collins
When I talk to caregivers about their situations, they often bring up travel as an issue—not around the world—just, maybe, out to a movie, shopping or playing golf—some way to get away, if only for the afternoon.
Here’s how it usually goes even with caregivers who know their service is an act of love:
They may say, “I know I need to get out, and sometimes, I feel like I’m in a prison.”
Just go, even if it’s for a couple of hours.
They respond with a number of reasons ranging from, “I’d love to, but my loved one won’t like it,” “I don’t have the money,” “I don’t have the time,” “We’d have to pack a lot of stuff,” “I don’t know who would take care of him or her,” “I’d have to find hotels that would accommodate us,” or “I’m just so tired.”
One of the most challenging effects of caregiving is that caregivers’ worlds begin to get smaller the longer they are in the situation. They travel less—even in their own communities, see fewer new sights and have less contact with others, especially friends. Too many caregivers end up with a world and life made up of the contacts they make through the caregiving experience, and the house in which they or their loved one lives.
Please forgive me for this comparison, but I cannot tell you how many caregivers I have met who live in the world I’ve described and have exactly the same look in their eyes as a dog that is constantly chained to a tree, exactly the same expression.
If you’d like to get out for a while or do some real traveling, you have some decisions to make. Consider these choices, which are simple to point out but, in most cases, not so simple to make:
Why? If you simply need to get out of the house for a little while, how do you make it happen? First, bring up the fact that you want and need to get out for a little while. If your loved one can take care of himself for a few hours, then, just go. If he is the type of person who encourages you to go, great! If not, you should understand that this is a type of self-care, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others.
What? What do you want to do? And, how much time will it take? If you want to go to a movie, that’s about two to three hours. Golf is four to five hours unless you only play nine holes. Do you want to go on a cruise? Maybe, three to fives days or more. Visit your children or grandchildren … you decide.
When? Is there a best time for you to get out? During your loved one’s nap time might be good, depending on his or her condition. Are weekends better, or during the week? Are there specific times during the year that fit into your schedule? Do not automatically assume you need to take vacation time to do caregiver duties. Current laws require some companies to provide time off for employees to take care of family members; check into it.
Who? Who do you want to go with you? No one? That’s fine; alone time can be the best. If you would like your spouse or friends to travel with you (and remember, this might simply be to the grocery store, a park or a longer trip) what do you need to do to make it happen?
Where? Is it a close, short trip, or something longer? Where is your dream location? And, why wait?
How? How do you make this happen? Can the your loved one travel with you? If so, what does that entail in terms of medicines, clothes, baggage? If you would like someone to care for your loved one while you are gone, contact friends or a home care company. There are travel companion companies that provide assistance if you want to take your loved one on a cruise or extended trip.
How much? Obviously, activities, distance, time and cost usually go together, so what can you afford in terms of time and money? Remember, this is an investment in your health—in your sanity. Paying for home care can be a simple substitution of distance versus time and peace of mind. You may spend some of your get-away budget on home care and not go as far as you would like, but your worry factor is much lower, and you can relax.
Remember, you take care of you.
Collins is the producer of the video, “Care for the Caregiver,” winner of a National Caregiver Friendly Award from Today’s Caregiver Magazine. For more ways to deal with the craziness of caregiving, visit www.crazycaregiver.com.
©2017 Mike Collins