I’m Finally Taking a Vacation — What to Do About Caregiving Duties

Caroline’s sister and her family live in sunny Tampa, Florida. She’s been wanting to visit for three years now, ever since her sister’s family bought their house near the beach. But it has been tough to get away, since Caroline is a live-in caregiver for her mother. Caroline gave it a lot of thought and realized she could really use a break, and she found a reasonable flight for late August, so she booked it.

Many caregivers, similar to Caroline, sacrifice vacations and fun outings for themselves to stay home with those they love and care for. However, getting that all-important rest and relaxation time is really important for caregivers because of their busy schedules and the possibility of stress overload. So yes, caregivers should get away. But, how can you do it? Here are some things you can do to make a vacation away from your loved one a less stressful experience:

– Plan ahead. Go to your family members, friends, and others to put together a plan you feel comfortable with while you’re away. Even if you hire an in-home caregiver for the duration of the vacation, it’s important to make sure that family members stop by daily to check on loved ones to ensure they’re getting the care they need and that things are running smoothly.

– Make arrangements with respite care at home that you’ve used before. If you have hired a caregiver through an agency before, this agency (and, if possible, the same caregiver) may be your first choice to stay with your loved one while you are gone. Someone who knows your loved one’s routines, medical needs, and has worked with them before would be preferable, so you can rest assured that your loved one feels comfortable.

Contact a nearby assisted living facility. Many assisted living facilities offer respite care assistance to caregivers who need to occasionally leave their loved ones, whether it be for business travel or vacation. This care is more extensive than the caregiver that may come to your home through an agency, and most facilities require a health history and care plan. Medications can be dispensed, but they do not supply them — you must bring everything needed for your loved one’s care. Medicare usually does not pay for this service, and prices vary depending on the level of care needed.

-Faith-based organizations, social clubs and churches usually have resources including volunteer companions who can help out too. If you plan to bring someone into your home to care for your loved one while you’re gone, be sure to interview the person and secure references. And, always trust your gut — if you don’t feel like the person is a good “fit” for your loved one, move on to the next person.

Meal delivery. If your loved one is independent, but needs help with meals or other simple tasks, there are agencies that can provide you with information about home care, companion services, and Meals on Wheels. In Northern Virginia and anywhere else in the U.S., you can reach out to your local Agency on Aging. The following are links for the Fairfax County Agency on Aging, Spotsylvania Agency on Aging, Montgomery County Agency on Aging, and Washington, DC Office on Aging.

Ride services. Fairfax County offers a variety of ride services for seniors, in case your mother is unable to drive and needs to go somewhere, such as a medical appointment. Click here for more details. For details about other counties in the Metro DC area, please visit the agency on aging websites mentioned above.

Talk to a Geriatric Care Manager

Aging Life Care Professionals (also known as Geriatric Care Managers) can be valuable helpers for navigating the various choices — as well as overseeing your loved one’s care and acting as the point person in an emergency. Please check out our trusted senior serving professionals for a list of Geriatric Care Managers and other referrals in our area.

Important Information to Keep on Hand

No matter where your parent receives care in your absence, it’s important to organize the following information for whoever is providing or overseeing the care:
• primary and secondary emergency contacts;
• a list of other family contacts;
• a list of physicians (with phone numbers and addresses), the preferred hospital, and the primary pharmacy;
• a list of all medications and which doctor prescribed them;
• important documents, including power of attorney, advance medical directive and related documents (for our clients, hospitals can access these documents using Docubank), and any Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders;
• insurance cards.

Don’t Feel Guilty!

So many caregivers worry about what might go wrong if they take a break. The reality is, something could go wrong anytime, anywhere. It’s also quite likely nothing will go wrong. As mentioned above, for peace of mind, arrange reliable, safe, quality, backup care if you are planning a vacation.

Communicate your loved one’s needs, how long you will be gone, and how you can be reached in an emergency. Know that your loved one will not be cared for the way you care for her, but that it is okay. What matters is that she is safe and cared for, that you need and deserve a break, and that your vacation is for a brief and finite time. And then go and enjoy. You’ve earned it!

Remember also, if you’re a caregiver, take steps to preserve your own health and well-being. Part of taking care of yourself is planning for your future and for your loved ones. Please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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