Prepare for Respite Care When You Need A Break from Caregiving

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As a caregiver, our focus is on the care and well-being of our loved one. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have reached a point of burn-out until we wake up one morning and our motivation is gone. We’re tired. We’re frustrated. All we can do is keep our home and family on autopilot.

You need a break.

But how? You’ve worked so hard to get to this point where caregiving fits into your life and family. Will taking a break mean you’ve got to start over again on your return?

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Get Rid of the Guilt

My number one goal in my caregiving is to make my MIL an important part of our family. I want her to feel loved, cared for, and needed.

The honest truth is, caregiving takes a lot out of you with very little return. While frequently likened to parenting – needs, daily tasks, and routines are similar – emotionally caregiving takes it’s toll in very different ways.

  1. You are pouring yourself into some who will (likely) never get better.
  2. You are often the recipient of anger and bitterness.
  3. You are constantly trying to balance keeping someone healthy, happy, and safe while also trying to remember and respect the adult you are caring for.
  4. You are required to constantly adapt and adjust to your loved one’s ever changing mood and state of mind.

Add these things to the regular tasks and routines of trying to merge caregiving and your life together and you’ve got all the ingredients for caregiver burnout.

Regardless of how much you love and care for someone or how much you work to make them part of your family and life, you must recognize and prioritize your need for refreshment.

It is vitally important that you find ways and times to seek respite so that you are able to be your best self for your loved one, the rest of your family, and your own well-being.

Do not feel guilty about seeking out opportunities to take a break. Whether it’s hiring help so you can go to the grocery store or sit in a coffee shop for a few hours of peace or leaving your loved one in the care of other family (or even a skilled nursing facility) so you can take a vacation every few years. Do so with the assurance that you are taking care of yourself so you can then take better care of them.

Related Post: How to Set Boundaries for Your Elderly Parent

Leaving Your Loved One

If you’re like me, the idea of leaving my MIL in someone else’s care causes a bit of anxiety. I work every day to provide my MIL with the best quality of life possible. Like most caregivers, where we are today has required a lot of experimentation and trial & error to find a way of life that “works” for us.

When I leave my MIL, I also leave these carefully crafted routines and methods in the hands of someone else.

To allow me some peace of mind, I do a little extra planning and prep work so I know I have done everything I can to ensure my MIL’s care plan remains at least mostly intact.

Related Post: Finding Help for Your Elderly Parent When You Can’t Be There

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Plans For Your Absence

As you make plans for respite, a great way to give yourself peace of mind and set up the respite caregiver for success is to make a simple care plan.


When preparing to leave, particularly if your loved one will be staying at home, fill a pill organizer with the medications they need every day. This will ensure proper dosage and times.

Prepare and laminate a detailed medication sheet that includes:

  • The name of the medication (if you have the generic, be sure to include the brand name)
  • Proper dosage
  • The medication’s purpose
  • The prescribing physician’s name and phone number

Important Documents

While you don’t need to have a bunch of documents on hand, you will need to ensure that whoever is providing care in your absence has a good copy of your loved one’s insurance cards and identification card.

Make sure your loved one’s primary physician has copies of all DNR orders, living will, and power of attorney/guardianship orders. If your loved one needs to see a specialist or be treated for an emergency, the primary physician will be able to provide the necessary paperwork to the treating physician.

Phone Numbers

Keep a list of important phone numbers that someone taking care of your loved one might need.

These include:

  • All doctors and specialists
  • Preferred Pharmacy
  • Preferred Emergency Hospital
  • Local Emergency Numbers
  • Where you can be reached in case of emergency
  • Your designated emergency contact (someone outside of your household)


You will want to make sure the person staying with your loved one is fully stocked with the supplies you frequently use.

Emergency Supplies

  • bandages
  • antiseptic
  • antibiotic ointment
  • stool softeners or suppositories
  • pain reliever
  • disposable gloves

Cleaning Supplies

  • disinfectant
  • urine/feces stain treatments
  • furniture cleaners
  • wipes/towels
  • carpet cleaners
  • room spray
  • disposable gloves

You’ll also want to make sure you are well stocked on toilet paper, flushable wipes, paper towels, disposable underwear, and bed pads.


You’ve worked hard to ensure your home and family are kept running smoothly. Part of the reason we are so hesitant to take time off for ourselves is we don’t want to have to start over when we get home.

Another reason we hesitate is we know how being off or changes in routine affect our loved one. We are tuned in to their limits, know their likes and dislikes, and know what behavior is normal. These are all things that we have learned over time.

Create a simple daily care sheet to help the person staying with your loved one avoid some of the pitfalls you’ve overcome and keep things running smoothly.


The final bit you want to include when you are preparing for respite care is a list of special tips you’ve learned (like how to get your loved one in the shower) or instructions.

Not only will this make your temporary caregiver’s experience easier (and more likely to be repeated!) but it will also keep things more normal for your loved one.

Related Post: How to Prep Your Home for Home Care

Balanced Caregiving

Like with most things a little prep work and planning on your part will go a long way in making your separation easier on your loved one and more restful for you.

It’s all about finding balance. Taking a few respite days will refill and rejuvenate you so you can be the best caregiver for you loved one. Go knowing you are doing what you need to do so you can continue to serve those you care for.

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One Comment

  1. I like what I see, but I want a downloadable program that I can type in the information, make changes as the Parkinson Disease progresses, print out a changed page for a binder. I will keep looking. Thanks for your idea.

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