6 Ways to Make It Easier for Caregivers to Take a Break

caring for the caregiver respite for caregivers how caregivers can take care of themselves

How caregivers can take care of themselves

The secret to surviving long term caregiving is to pace yourself and rest when you’re tired. Being constantly exhausted and severely stressed causes significant health problems.

But many caregivers resist the advice to take regular breaks. Why? Because getting help with caregiving can be more of an emotional decision than a rational one. Many caregivers feel guilty about stepping away or afraid of bringing a stranger into the house.

There can also be other roadblocks to getting caregiving help. Most often, those are seniors’ denial that they need help, unhelpful family, or financial issues.

We’ve got 6 tips to help you deal with these issues and make it easier to get some well-deserved time off.



6 tips make it easier for caregivers to take a break

1. Accept that you’ll feel guilty
Guilt is a normal part of caregiving simply because you care – it’s never going to disappear. Don’t let this stop you from getting the caregiving help you need. Taking regular breaks is the best way to maintain your overall health.

Besides, how much worse would you feel if you never took any breaks and your health declined to the point where you couldn’t care for your older adult? It doesn’t do them any good if you’re not physically or mentally well enough to be their caregiver.


2. Don’t ask your senior for permission
This isn’t a decision that your older adult gets to make. Many older adults refuse outside help because they’re uncomfortable with the idea. And seniors with dementia don’t have the cognitive ability to make a rational decision.

When seniors refuse, they’re not thinking of your needs and are often not considering their own true needs either. That’s why you need to make the decision, regardless of how they feel about it. All that matters is that they’re safe and well-cared-for when you’re not there.


3. Start before you really need it
It may take a while to find the right person to help and for them to learn the caregiving routines. That’s why it’s important to start getting help before you really need it.

If you’re putting together a team of family, friends, and volunteers to help, it’s less stressful if you have plenty of time to get the team in place and work out the details.

To make the transition easier, you could have someone come and shadow you until they learn the ropes and can be left alone with your older adult. Or, you could have someone come for a short time in the beginning and gradually increase their time as everyone adjusts to the new situation.


4. Combine paid services with help from friends, family, and volunteers
Hiring caregiving help can be expensive. But even if the cost is high, maintaining or improving your health is worth it.

Being open to different sources of help also lowers the cost of taking regular breaks. Ask family and friends for help and seek out volunteer programs that offer companionship services. Then supplement those hours with paid help.


5. Check in to know that your older adult is well-cared-for
You might be afraid or nervous to leave your older adult with a stranger or a family member with limited experience. To give you greater peace of mind, use simple, discreet ways to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re doing a good job.

You could sometimes come back early as a surprise check-in to see what’s been happening. While you’re out, call occasionally to hear how things are going. Another good move is to ask the caregiver to take notes so you’ll know what happened while you were away.



6. Be creative when introducing the hired caregiver
If your older adult is very resistant to outside help, be sensitive and creative when introducing them to the household. Nobody wants to be told that they’re getting a babysitter. A careful approach is especially important to prevent seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia from reacting with fear or anxiety.

For example, you could introduce the person as your helper around the house and have them help you with meal prep, light housekeeping, and simple care tasks. After a few of these visits, it will seem normal that they’re around and it will be easier for you to leave to run “errands.”

You could also frame it as doing that person a favor. Perhaps you could say that this person is in need of a job, so you’re helping them out with a few hours of work here and there.

If family or friends are helping, you could say that they wanted to visit and spend some time catching up. When they become regular visitors, you can start popping out to run “errands.”


Recommended for you:
3 Ways to Let Go of Guilt and Get Help with Caregiving
4 Tips to Deal with Seniors Who Refuse Help
Alzheimer’s and Fear of Being Alone: 5 Ways for Caregivers to Cope


By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Give Love Project


  • Reply January 10, 2019


    Not all care givers are taking care of their senior. Many are taking care of a spouse who have physical limitations along with beginning dementia. And some are taking care of a child with limitations.

    • Reply January 10, 2019


      Very true, a caregiver could be caring for anyone who needs help with the tasks of everyday life. Our site is focused on topics that are relevant to those who are caring for an older adult. The older adult could be a parent, spouse, relative, or friend. Some of the tips and advice can also be helpful in situations where people are caring for someone who isn’t an older adult.

    • Reply July 18, 2019

      gloria solomon

      I am a full time carer for my 77 yr old brother who has a multitude of health issues including vascular dementia he is doubly incontinent he can’t be left alone for a single moment as he has choking fits and gets up to all sorts of mischief like emptying his clothes drawers and getting ready “for work” at 4in the morning while trying to get out of our flat,he has carers for half an hour every morning for half an hour to shower him and he pays the full hourly rate for them even though social services/adult care are meant to be paying up to 7k a year for his care,which we have never received or have any clue about what they are or arent doing with this money,I havent had a day off for years and even have to shop online as I barely ever leave the flat,social services have been worse than useless and cause so much worry and stress with their incompetence I dread getting in touch with them as they mess up everything,sometimes I get so sick of the sight of these 4 walls I could scream the last time I tried respite for him he had a week in a home that social services chose,he came home unwashed,unshaved,he hadnt been changed and had urine burns so bad they took 6 months to clear up,they also lost all of his labelled clothes,even a complaint to the CQC got swept under the carpet and I felt awful for letting him go,thankfully although it took over 2 yrs the CQC finally woke up and shut the place down,I need a break but dread the outcome again and will feel guilty if he comes home in the same state as before Im at the end of my tether right now

      • Reply July 22, 2019


        I’m so sorry to hear that the social services in your area haven’t been helpful. It’s unfortunate that you have to work so hard to get help from these agencies.

        It’s terrible that the last respite experience was so poor. Since you clearly need and deserve a break, perhaps you could ask which care community is used for respite and research it ahead of time to find out if the quality of their care is good before having your brother stay there. Or, if it’s possible, consider increasing the hours for the carers that are currently coming during the day.

        And even though it’s been difficult to work with your social services agency, it may be worthwhile to give them a call every now and then to see if there are different staff available who may be able to provide better help.

        In case it’s helpful, we’ve got an article about taking breaks when you can’t get away — https://dailycaring.com/10-ways-caregivers-can-take-a-quick-break-right-now/

  • Reply August 3, 2018

    Pat Flockhart

    I feel guilty because it’s not fair my loved one has lbd. They didn’t ask for lbd and leaving my loved one is unfair, seems like punishment and abandonment while I go relax or have fun. Can you speak to this topic?

    • Reply August 3, 2018


      Feeling guilty for taking breaks is a common theme among caregivers. It’s not fair that someone you care about is living with a disease that limits what they can do. But that doesn’t mean that you should punish yourself by denying yourself even a little bit of a life outside of caregiving.

      If you don’t take a little time to relax, recharge, and focus on yourself, you’re highly likely to burn out completely or develop your own serious health issues. None of that is helpful to long term caregiving.

      In fact, the only way to be a healthy and balanced caregiver over the long term is to find ways to take regular breaks. Nobody can be on call 24/7 for years and not be negatively affected by the stress, exhaustion, and frustration. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but enough to keep you as mentally and physically well as possible.

      We’ve got a few articles to help you understand and manage these guilty feelings so it’s easier to get the rest you need to keep going as an amazing caregiver:
      — 5 Tips for Dealing with Caregiver Guilt in Dementia Care https://dailycaring.com/5-tips-for-dealing-with-caregiver-guilt-in-dementia-care/
      — 5 Expert Tips for Reducing Caregiver Guilt https://dailycaring.com/5-expert-tips-for-reducing-caregiver-guilt/
      — 7 Ways of Dealing with Caregiver Guilt That Improve Health https://dailycaring.com/7-ways-of-dealing-with-caregiver-guilt-that-improve-health/

  • Reply May 23, 2018

    Anuya Joshi

    This session was really helpful. It help me understand my guilt and later how to keep watch on hires person.

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