UP FOR DISCUSSION … Respite – a time away from anything distressing or trying – can bring with it an entirely different perspective about the role of family caregiver! I learned a lot from my three-day sojourn of freedom and solitude.

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Webster’s Dictionary defines RESPITE as “a delay or cessation for a time, especially of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief.”  We are all in need of respite in our lives, but as family caregivers who are usually on call 24/7, a few days away can be difficult to come by.  I recently had the opportunity to attend my grandson’s high school graduation when a relative graciously agreed to stay with my loved one so that I could travel.  Not only did the time away give me a new perspective on my situation, but I learned much about the dynamics of caregiving and the benefit of NOT necessarily staying true to the “routine”.

I spent a good deal of time preparing for the trip.  Not only did I need to refresh myself on the challenges of air travel, but wanted to be sure that every possible contingency was covered should something go wrong while I was away.  Of course, none of it was actually needed, but knowing it was there gave me a sense of security that carried me throughout the weekend.  Especially as I called home to “check in” I gained a better understanding that the best preparation came in the form of one off-handed remark that suggested a good way to engage my guy in conversation was to reminisce about the past.  From what I can tell, it brought both brother and sister joy just recalling and telling stories about the early days of their family history together.  And my loved one knew well the components of his care and according to reports, took the lead in ensuring they happened.

As my trip unfolded, I discovered joy for myself in the simplest of ways.  Finding a busy family preparing for a hectic weekend gave me some time alone.  I lingered over lunch and spent time talking with the local patrons sitting outdoors at the restaurant.  Their two Shelties became the bond that allowed me to remember how life affirming a chat with strangers can be on a beautiful breezy Friday afternoon.  The next day I stopped at a mall.  I window shopped and took the time to find the perfect dorm room gift for my grandson without regard for the time it was taking or the need to check something specific off my list.  And, as I made my way back to the airport after the festivities to enable catching an early flight out the next morning, I realized the time has come in my life to not find the most economical accommodations, but rather the most comfortable.  I smiled as I realized that time to myself was so valuable it was to be spent pampering me … something I do not do often enough!  It is not self-indulgence, it is self-love.

One final thought as I reflect back on my respite and all that I learned in taking it.  Joy comes in knowing you are where you are meant to be, doing something that few others can do.  While my extended family might have been glad to see me, they are living their best lives without me as any part of that process.  They do not need me, nor do I represent for them any component of safety or comfort they might desire as they face their own life challenges.  For my husband, the opposite is true.  To him, my presence in his life provides all of that and more.  As his caregiver, I have become his world.  And even as I learned that the care he requires right now can be provided by anyone who loves him, he believes his well-being is totally in my hands.  There is joy in that … God’s task for me at this point in my life is to see my loved one home.  I cannot do it alone, and I am so grateful for others who care enough to give of themselves to help; but I feel privileged to be able to take the lead.  My challenge is to find those moments of leisure and solitude – and the amazing joy that can be found in the small things that matter and feed my soul.                                                         



UP FOR DISCUSSION:  How do you find a respite from caregiving?  What brings you joy when you are able to do so?  Please feel free to share your stories below.


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