Respite

Several years ago, I was the nurse and healthcare coordinator at an Adult Day Service. It was during this time that I noticed how different caregivers experience respite. Respite is generally defined as a break from a routine. In the caregiver experience, this typically suggests a break from the daily tasks of caring for a loved-one. In my role at the Adult Day Care, I learned to differentiate between the noun of respite and the adjective of respite.

When a caregiver dropped their loved-one off to spend the day in our care, they were using a respite (noun) service. However, it was clear to me that many were not experiencing the respite (adjective) that our service intended.

At the Adult Day Service, I made a point to be near the front lobby in the mornings to chat with our caregivers. More often than not, when I asked what their day was going to be like, they told me that they were off to work, to run errands for their loved-one, or to tidy up the house. Every so often, a caregiver told me that she was taking the day off to spend time with friends or to go for a walk but that was rare.

Many of our caregivers couldn’t just drop their lives to get a two hour massage while their loved-one was with us. They had jobs, families, chores and too many balls in the air to simply relax for the day. However, I recognized that some of our caregivers were open to allowing the adjective of respite into their day while others always saw their own wellbeing as secondary or even tertiary. And in fact, the one caregiver who I believe our services helped the most worked full-time and saw her job and coworkers as her “therapy”.

Both individual characteristics and individual situations affect the caregiver’s experience of respite. For those who have ample support in the family, in their community, and have the resources to find high quality respite services for their loved-one, the adjective of respite is more likely to attain. However, that is not the whole story. In my experience with hundreds of families who care for their loved-ones, I have seen that it is essential for the caregiver to be willing to accept the opportunity of respite to achieve respite. And this means recognizing that a break for you-the caregiver- is good for everybody!

My best,

Thomas


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