Take a Break, For Everyone’s Sake

Frazzled is not a good caregiver mode.
Taking a break fixes frazzled.

Ah, summertime fun in the sun. For many caregivers, however, it’s may be just another season. They are too busy focusing on the caregiving season of chronic or terminal illness or continuing mental decline of their loved ones to do anything more than wistfully look out of the window. They go from day to day without a thought to themselves.

Caregiving can take its toll on not only the caregiver—both family and paid caregivers—but the patient being cared for if the caregiver isn’t at his or her best or becomes ill for failing to take care of themselves. One way caregivers can and must take care of themselves is by taking a break from the responsibilities of caregiving.

For many of us, not just caregivers, taking a break is easier said than done. According to Expedia.com’s annual Vacation Deprivation Survey, Americans receive an average of 15 vacation days each year, but they take 14 days, up from 12 days leave taken in 2013. Why even leave one day on the table, when not taking a break can do serious damage to your physical and mental health?

In fact, high levels of stress have been associated with numerous negative health outcomes, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Research by the Framingham Heart Study found women who took a vacation once every six years or less are almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or suffer a heart attack than those who went away at least twice a year.  And we know that women continue to be the primary caregivers. But even men are at risk for trying to muscle through without rest and relaxation.

Another study of 12,000 men ages 35 to 57 found those who don’t vacation regularly had nearly a 50 percent higher risk of dying from a heart attack than those who vacationed at least four of the study’s five-year period. A blog on Prevention.com highlights other ways how not taking a vacation damages our health, including increasing depression, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and the stress hormone, cortisol, in our system.

Taking a break, either a few hours for dinner and a movie, or a longer respite of several days, rejuvenates caregivers both physically and mentally, helping them to refocus their energies and to be better able to tackle work and responsibilities again. TakeBackYourTime.org has a list of “10 Reasons Why Vacations Matter,” that’s worth reading.

Taking a break also helps caregivers better reconnect with the person or loved one in their care. After all, you can’t put a smile on your face for someone else when you are feeling miserable yourself.  Caregiving studies have shown that caregivers can fall into their own depressions.

The Vacation Deprivation Survey pointed out several barriers to taking a vacation, some of which can be alleviated through respite care for your loved one. In the case of loved ones on hospice, Medicare covers up to five days at an approved hospice facility for the patient (the caregivers still need to pay for their own vacations, of course).

“The most popular excuse for not using available vacation days is “work schedule does not allow for it” (19%), followed by a desire to “bank them/carry over to next year” (18%), “lack of money” (18%) and “difficulty coordinating time” (16%).”

At corecubed, we can help your homecare business communicate to clients the importance of taking a break, for everyone’s sake.  Summer’s not over yet. Contact one of our marketing experts today to make sure your clients and caregivers get the R and R they need, in the sun, and in the future seasons ahead.