A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.
Last weekend, my husband and I took a mini-vacation and drove down to visit friends who own a cabin not far from Mount Baker in Washington State. We didn't take a cell phone, a laptop, or any work; in fact, we didn't take much at all except ourselves. The drive took about three hours and when we got there, our friends were already at the cabin and the sun was just going down behind the mountains. We ate a late dinner and caught up on each others lives. We'd last been there in November for American Thanksgiving and since then, N. and A. had been to Ireland and N. had had a repetitive stress injury to her thumb. Their magnificent dog, M., looked just as beautiful as ever and seemed happy to see us. It was a relaxing evening of eating, drinking, and looking at pictures of the trip to Ireland. Before we knew it, it was pushing midnight and we went off to bed and I immediately fell asleep - a rare thing at home.
The next day we didn't have anything planned. The two guys went off for what turned into a five-hour-long hike and N. and I settled in for a long talk. We've been friends since we met at university more than 30 years ago. Over the years, we've each changed and we sometimes rub against each other. But once we got past the rough patches, it felt like slipping into a pair of beloved slippers that you'd forgotten you had. We went for a walk down to the river that runs not far from the cabin. The Stillaguamish is a lovely clear blue-green color that reminds me of rivers in the Yukon. There wasn't much to see, but I could hear a Swainson's thrush singing somewhere and the rushing water of the river was soothing. We stood there for a few minutes and N. threw a ball for M. to fetch and then we turned back because some people showed up and N. was afraid M. might frighten them. When we got back from our walk, I took a short nap while N. started dinner. All-in-all it was a day without anything specific that had to be done. Perfect for relaxing.
You may not think you can get away; however, if there's any way you can manage it: take a break. Having time when you don't have to look after anyone, whether it's for two hours or two weeks, is a life-saver. Breaks aren't expendable. Don't be shy about asking for the help you need to make them happen.
Who can look after your elderly parent(s) while you're gone?
- Other family members
- A family friend
- A paid respite careworker
- A volunteer respite careworker
- Adult day care
- An extended care facility
Here are some more suggestions on how to find care for your parent(s). It may seem impossible, but what's really impossible is not taking a break. That is a surefire way to end up with caregiver burn-out. So, be proactive and take a break; you'll be glad you did.
Meanwhile, back to my break. Just as important as giving your body a break, is giving your mind a break. So, instead of worrying about my mother, who is in a rehab center, or my sister, who I share caregiving duties with, or my estranged daughter, I ended up thinking about Ireland, and Japan (where my friend is from), the Sahara desert and her trip there, the banjo (which her husband plays), what those birds were I caught glimpses of in the trees, and many other things that I would never have been thinking about at home. It was great. I think the best moment was when I woke-up on Sunday morning and I saw N. out the bedroom window. She was wearing a sunshine yellow jacket and playing keep-away with a squeak toy and her dog. You'll have to take my word for it that it was a truly magical moment and one that will stay in my mind's eye for a long time.
The last thing we did on Sunday afternoon was to eat a lunch of soba noodles. N. served soba (buckwheat) with chopped green onions, a special seasoning sauce, sprinkles of roasted seaweed, and a blended seasoning pepper. It was a perfect lunch: light, yet filling. Then, we were on the road and by the time we got home we'd only been away about 48 hours. It felt like a lot more. The best breaks are like that.
What sort of breaks do you take from caregiving?