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Respite: While Taking Care of Others

Bottom half of legs in a bubble bath, crossed at the ankle.

Care giving for a significant other who’s not going to get better, while raising and supporting children, along with the dealing with an aging parent is rather like trying to dance on the tracks of an oncoming train. The bad is coming, whatever it is. You can feel it. If you put your ear to the track, you would hear it. \

But before it gets there, what about you? Are you supposed to hold yourself frozen in continual dread, trudging along pathetically? Can life still be fun? Maybe you need a bit of respite care and maybe you’ll have to give that to yourself.

It’s the essence of the human condition

Walking along these tracks, the way is clear, cold, regimented, and defined by other people’s need. If you’re like me, you do what you have to. You make sure everyone is fed, clean, and warm and that takes up most of your time–so much that even going to the shops for milk feels like a break.

Putting others first

Care giving can mean you constantly put your needs after the needs of everyone else in your life and that plays tricks with your head. There are a lot of folks in my shoes. About 43 million in the United States, alone are caring for their spouse. And they know, you have your routines, your endless chores, and your constant to do lists.

If you’re not careful, all the joy slips. You know what you have to do but you have no idea what you’d rather do, what do you even like, anymore. But dancing on the tracks of the oncoming train is part of the human condition. We’re all going to die in the end but it should be fun along the way.

Take any respite care offered by others

If I have advice, I would say that you should take all the respite care you’re offered. Whether it’s from family, friends, or part of a government support program, take all the help you can get. Forget this ‘go it on your own’ business. It’s bullshit.

It might not be a lot though

Family and friends, though they love you, will do a lot less than you might guess. Friendships will shift because the people who loved you as a couple will not love you so much when you’re not a couple anymore. It’s okay, you’ll make new friends but almost no one will offer to come and hang out with your spouse while you go off to the beach somewhere. They’re gonna want to go to the beach with you.

Government can bridge that gap

If help is offered, just take it. Remember that there are a lot of services in respite care offered by governments. Look into it and get the help you can. A personal support worker can be dispatched to help with showering and changing, feeding, and simple household tasks.

You might have to give yourself some care

Daily, though. You can turn on a bit of music and start to dance. It’s simple. You have to start thinking about yourself in the same way that you think about the people you’re caring for.

Things you love can be respite care

This sounds odd, but.. Sit down when you have a break from all this care giving, and draw up a list of things you like. I don’t care what’s on that list. None of my business.

Things you like to do

What can you do without anyone and anything making you do it? What can you do for hours? What do you get lost in? For me it’s watching movies, reading, having a bath. You’ll notice I am not a big sportsy person but if you are, put that on the list. Making a list puts your wants and desires in your mind, even top of mind.

Things you like to eat

It doesn’t have to be hobbies. It can be chocolate cake or bubble baths or your potatoes done a certain way. It can be chamomile tea in the afternoon or those little chocolate kisses you like so much. It can be sausage rolls or steak for dinner. Even if your partner cannot have these things, the are still available to you.

Commit a little time to enjoying yourself

But once you have that list, make a pact with yourself to do something on that list or give yourself something on that list every day. Even if the day is absolutely packed, you can add a little cinnamon to your coffee and put your feet up for five minutes. When you’re intentionally thinking about caring for yourself, you do it. So, keep that list handy. Work on your routine until you find a little time in every day for a little respite care for yourself.

A room of your own

One thing that helped me immensely was taking space for myself. Sharing a space with people who need constant help is kind of like being at work twenty-four hours a day, seven days of the week. So, I claimed an area in the house as my office. I did a little decorating, blocking the office off with only a curtain. It was enough of a barrier, both for my family and for me so that there is little or no traffic or distraction. I can go in this room and just be myself. It’s a form of respite care that’s easy and surprisingly effective.

Take your moments for you

While I was writing this blog, my cat jumped up and demanded a little attention. So, I stopped and took a moment with her. A nice relaxed cuddle with a very creature who is soft and purrs loudly like a speedboat. A moment together before she goes off and does the business of cats and I come back to you. Made me feel so good. Neither a nuisance nor a distraction, the dance, I would argue, is the whole point.

  • Call me.
  • Write me.
  • My favourite colour is black. I wear black a whole lot.
  • My favourite animal is the tiger. Which is good because I am a tiger according to Chinese astrology.
  • I have two cats. My favourite humans are my daughter and my husband.
  • My favourite movie, right now, is Oppenheimer but I really love action movies, probably my favourite is The Matrix.