If you are a family caregiver it is not only important that you take a vacation, it is imperative. I know you are probably coming up with about a million reasons you simply cannot take a vacation. But read this article and maybe I can change your mind about taking regular caregiver vacations.
#1 Vacations Help To Reduce and Relieve Stress
We all have stress in our life. It is a fact of life. Stress is not the real problem. However, for a family caregiver, the stress is sometimes a continuous loop. This is where the problem begins. A family caregiver will spend her day moving from one stressful situation to another.
Stress in itself is not the bad guy. But staying in a constant state of stress is not healthy. And if you are the one responsible for another person’s well being it is critical that you take care of yourself.
Dr. Hebert Benson has studied the effect of the stress response for over 40 years. What he discovered was that people who stayed in a constant state of stress were more likely to experience health issues and challenges. Dr. Benson coined the term “The Relaxation Response” to describe the chemical and physical changes that happen in the body when a person relaxes. It is the exact opposite of the stress response.
If you have your own health challenges you will not be able to be there for the one you love.
Taking a vacation can help you to clear your mind of worries. This will allow both your body and your mind to relax. By taking this time out, you will be able to see stressful situations in a different light. You may even come up with solutions you hadn’t thought of before.
#2 Help Your Heart Stay Healthy
The Farmington Heart Study found negative effects on the heart in women who did not take vacations. In fact, this study which spanned over 20 years showed women could be 8 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack than women who took two vacations a year. Caregiver vacations are necessary to help your heart stay healthy.
Ida cared for her mother with Dementia. That is, she did until her heart attack! Luckily it happened when her sister was caring for mom. I would hate to think what would have happened to both of them if she was taking care of mom when the heart attack happened.
“I knew I was really stressed.” She told me “but I kept telling myself that I could do this. I didn’t listen to my body and now I am paying for it.
#3 Reduce Your Chance of Getting Dementia
Caring for someone with dementia is stressful. And the bad news is stress, especially chronic stress affects the hippocampus area in the brain — where memories are stored. It is not surprising that caregivers, especially spousal caregivers end up developing dementia themselves.
Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD the author of Brain Longevity says that chronic stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, which travels through the blood to every area of your body, including your brain. It can attack and kill millions of cells in the memory area of your brain.
#4 Vacations Help to Balance Our Lives. They Bring Joy and Excitement.
We all need to experience more joy and excitement. Everyone should be able to enjoy the anticipation of the vacation. Planning a vacation brings excitement into our lives even before we embark on our trip. Where will we go?
Let’s face it, the day to day activities of a caregiver can become mundane. You probably do pretty much the same thing every day. Keeping a routine helps someone with dementia. But it may not be the best thing for their caregiver. Vacations help to spice things up a bit. And the good news is these vacations can last long after the trip. Looking at the photos and reminiscing about your trip can continue the joy for quite some time.
You will also bring this joy and excitement back to the one you care for. Sure, they may not remember that you told them you went on a trip. But they will respond to your excitement and joy.
#5 Gives other Family Members a Chance to Experience What You Do
Sometimes caregivers complain that nobody really understands what it is they do every day. They sometimes are frustrated that other family members do not really appreciate all that they are doing. Well here is your chance to help them understand.
By allowing your sibling or another family member to take over your duties for a week or so you will be helping both of you. You will get the break you need. At the same time, your family will get to experience what you do every day. My guess is that they will have a new understanding and appreciation of what you do.
Kate and Jon took a much-needed vacation to visit their grandchildren for the holidays. Jon’s brother Mark was in charge of mom. He had a new appreciation for all the care they gave mom after this experience. “I had no idea mom required so much time and attention” Mark confessed.
#6 A Vacation Will Make You a Better Caregiver
You will become a better caregiver when you take regular vacations. Let’s face it, nobody wants to be around a worn out or possibly even grumpy person all day long. When you do not take time for yourself that may be who you become.
Think about it. Would you want someone who is stressed out and worn out to be caring for you? I know I wouldn’t! I want someone who is happy and full of life to care for me when I need. Caregiver vacations help you to bring that sense of excitement and joy back into your caregiving role.
Author- Kathryn Watson