Taking a Vacation from Caregiving – Part 2: Dealing with Separation Anxiety
by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief
Caregiving is, by nature, emotional. When loved ones need our care, it’s generally because their health is beginning to fail. As this happens, giving care can become a full-time occupation, mentally if not physically. If we decide that we need a break from the pressures of 24/7 caregiving, we often suffer emotional separation anxiety, headed by guilt. How do we cope with our emotions well enough to actually enjoy the vacation we’ve chosen to take?
If there is one emotion that nearly all dedicated caregivers have in common, it’s guilt. We feel guilty for not giving enough when we’ve given all we can; we feel guilty for not being able to make someone well, when no one can do that; we feel guilty if our loved one isn’t happy all the time; we feel guilty if we do something fun for ourselves. However, if we are there – right there all of the time – we have a better chance of feeling that we are doing “”okay.”” If we take a vacation, we suffer more guilt, because we know our being gone will affect our elders, and also bring on a type of separation anxiety in ourselves.
Cope with Guilty Feelings, Then Do It Anyway
Planning a vacation, and actually enjoying it, will mean coping with your own guilty feelings and coming to peace with the fact that there are others who can fill in while you are gone. Often, this means hiring in-home care agencies, if you are doing home care, or even using assisted living. Nursing homes, of course, are already staffed, so that is a matter of trusting the staff with your loved one.
Making a vacation from caregiving happen will probably take a real push on your part. You may have to make a focused effort to take this step, as your own excuses as to why you can’t take time for yourself could overwhelm your desire, and need, for a break.
You may want to work through the feelings, rather than stuffing them down, because unexpressed emotions have a way of working their way out at inopportune times, say in the middle of your romantic dinner on a cruise.
Support groups are a good way to work this through, if you can get to one. If you can’t get away enough for a support group meeting, the Web abounds with online forums and support sites. You can do both, for that matter. Either way, I’d suggest that you make a list of concerns you have about leaving your loved one temporarily in the hands of others. Make it as detailed as you choose, and feel free to be over the top with your worries. Then, use this list when you address your worries with a group or with a caregiving friend.
For questions about live in home care for your aging loved one, please contact the caregivers at Andelcare. We provide everything from respite care for the primary caregiver to full time elder care in Seattle WA and the surrounding communuties. Call us at 888-788-3051 for more information.