The Oxford Dictionary defines RESPITE as a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.
For many, having respite care can be a godsend. It gives one a break from the daily grind and should help the caregiver to relax and reset, even if its just a couple hours at a shot. Currently, I have been granted about 8 hours a week of respite service through the end of the year, thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association.
A lot of things, mostly errands, have piled up on my To-Do list as I was previously able to leave the house for an extended period of time maaaaaybe once every 6 weeks. So, when this respite service kicked in in late July, I began to chip away at the list: haircut, dental cleaning, haul stuff to Goodwill for donate, “stock up” shopping of those once-in-a -while purchases, hitting grocery stores outside of my normal 10-minute radius to buy favorite items, etc.
Honestly though, scheduled respite is not really my friend.
It is stressful to get everything ready before the helper arrives at 1pm – – – sometimes my folks wake early and so the morning routine is complete by 10:30/11 am; and sometimes they don’t wake until 11 or noon, depending on the night Mom’s had. It is those late start days that escalate my stress as we attempt to complete the morning routine, and get me ready to go out in public.
My next complaint is that I have no one to share my break with. Friends and family all have normal 9-to-5 or later jobs on the weekdays, and more often than not, they are “otherwise engaged” should I reach out to plan a meetup for my weekend respite hours. Many of the conversations feel awkward, like they don’t want to accept an invitation to spend time with me because they expect that our conversations will be mostly me complaining about one thing or another. They obviously don’t know me…if I’m on a break, I want a break! There are a lot of “friends” that I have downgraded to “acquaintances” because of them acting weird toward me.
Another complaint I have therefore is that it’s usually not fun doing things on my own. I hate spending money that I don’t have stopping at a restaurant for a meal alone, or attending events like festivals, fairs or ball games by myself. I have actually spent my four hours driving aimlessly around town, in hectic rush-hour traffic, adding to my stress.
At times like these, that feeling of loneliness creeps in.
Even though I’m away from the house, caregiving and my parents are still top of mind:
- Is Dad upset at an unfamiliar voice there to help him? (His greatest fear is to be “put away” and hearing an unfamiliar voice is a quick trigger for that fear.)
- Is Mom going to ask for help to the commode rather than waiting for me to return to assist her? I keep telling her that in her condition, waiting is a sure way to develop a painful UTI…
- What am I going to give them for supper after I get back? They prefer to eat early rather than late and cooking a meal takes time. I really don’t want to hear the immediate complaining after an alleged relaxing time.
I often wish that respite care can be ad hoc, on a moment’s notice, when I’m at my wit’s end and need a break. But that doesn’t fit into the care agency’s preferred practice, nor are we comfortable with so many new/different people coming through the house.
Ugh. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but bottom line is that most days I’d rather not leave the house. But not leaving the house is not a break. Because of Dad’s hearing impairment, any conversation is one that can probably be heard by the entire neighborhood. There is no rest for me staying at home while someone else is here.
Rock? Meet Hard Place. Yes, that is how I feel sometimes….. Is it just me?