Take a break: It’s not an indulgence. It’s critical to your health and caregiving.

Don’t Skip a Break. Beg, Borrow, Hire Help

Don’t Skip a Break. Beg, Borrow, Hire Help

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The work behind taking a break can feel so overwhelming that you may be tempted to simply skip the break.

A break is not only possible but doable. Today, I’ll offer ideas on how you get to take a break for just a few hours.

Caregiving requires tasks and responsibilities that feel like pure drudgery. Giving yourself a break from the drudgery—which could be just a few hours–can be really helpful. Some ideas:

Hire a home health aide to help your family member with personal care. Perhaps you hire a home health aide a few times a week, a few times a month or simply once in awhile. In addition to providing personal care, the home health aide can help with laundry, light housekeeping and simple meal preparation. You also can hire a home health aide to help transport your caree to doctor’s appointments and medical treatments.

Having extra help so you get a break from organizing the wheelchair, your caree and your paperwork, while navigating long hallways and confusing parking garages, can feel like a weight lifted from your shoulders. And, consider help from a home health aide when the flu hits you or your caree. You can search for home health agencies in your area at National Association for Home Care and Hospice website. (Read our tips to help you find quality help.)

Hire cleaning services either for your home or your caree’s home. Again, you can hire the service to clean a few times a month or just a few times a year. You also can ask family members and friends to give you the gift of a home cleaning service.

Have a snow removal service at the ready. My dad arranged a deal with a local handyman who also shovels snow; when the snow level reaches two inches, he comes to my parent’s house to shovel. My dad feels okay managing any snow under two inches. He gives himself (and me) a break when the snow piles up.

Hire a lawn maintenance service for your home or your caree’s home. If you manage two homes (yours and your caree’s), consider delegating lawn maintenance for one (or both).

Ask teenagers in your family to visit for a few hours while you take time for yourself. If your caree has a cognitive impairment, like dementia, educate the kids on how to communicate effectively with your caree. For instance, ask your teen-aged daughter to sit with your mother so you can get a break from her constant questions. The change can help you (you can catch a breath and gather your thoughts) and your mom (the new face may break the pattern of repetitive questions).

Order in dinner once a week or once in awhile. The break from shopping, planning, preparing and cleaning up a dinner can be freeing. Many restaurants have meals that can meet your caree’s special dietary needs.

Ask family members to prepare meals for you which can be kept in your freezer. When you’re tight on time and money and energy, microwave these meals for dinner.

Use a grocery delivery service. If your caree still lives in his own home, a grocery-delivery service can save you time and give you peace of mind; you know your caree has fresh food. Consider using the service for yourself once in awhile, too; giving yourself a break from one more task and errand can make the day feel completely different.

Use Meals on Wheels. Just as ordering dinner in can give you a break, Meals on Wheels can give you a noon-time break. If you work, Meals on Wheels can be a nice solution to the worry about what your caree eats while you’re gone. And, a volunteer brings in the meal, engaging in a conversation with your caree. It’s a meal delivery and check-in service, all in one. You can learn more about Meals on Wheels here. (You also can check in to other meal delivery services like and

Engage your caree in activities, such as folding laundry, organizing old family photos and writing out recipes. You also may have family videos which captivate your caree. Penny, who cared for her mom, played a family wedding video for her mom over and over; her mom never grew tired of watching. A company called Video Respite has 13 videos which hold the attention of individuals with dementia through music, light movement and reminiscing. You can learn more here. You also can find activity ideas at companies like eNasco.

Recruit your caree to be a volunteer. We have a Caree Volunteer Program, which takes place over the phone. We match carees who can reach out to other carees with check-in phone calls.

Check in your community about volunteers which visit with your caree for a few hours so you can get a break. You may have to do a little digging to find the programs; call churches, synagogues and social service agencies, like United Way, and ask the staff for help finding these programs.

With some planning and out-of-the-box thinking, you can buy yourself a few hours for yourself.

For more advice and support, go to


Reprinted with permission of Denise Brown.


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