Guest Blog: “Respite Means Time to BREATHE” by Mel Brower, Elderhaven Program Director

Caregiving is a tough job, but going it alone makes it even harder. There are resources for seniors and their caregivers to find respite, or a break, for various lengths of time. However, even with the chance to take a “day off” caregiving, some caregivers don’t take advantage of opportunities to rest and relax. Mel Brower, Director of Elderhaven Adult Day Center of Williamson County shares some thoughts on what respite can really do for a caregiver. -SP


Respite means a time to BREATHE.  Finding respite options for a loved one in your care is a vital component to being a successful caregiver.  But more importantly,  once you find some good resources; it is now time for you to make some good decisions about how you are going to use this “breathing” room.


Care giving for a loved one is one of the most stressful life events that a person can experience.  Every person should know that the job of care giving should NEVER be the sole responsibility of just one person.  You must take time to take care of yourself.   You will save yourself much grief by taking the initiative of creating a “village” of resources to assist you in this journey.  The sooner you begin to reach out and find options the better your results will be.

The burden of care giving is a multidimensional challenge that every caregiver must navigate.  Every caregiver is faced with varying degrees of burden types.  Restrictions of your time and physical health issues such as chronic fatigue will layer on top of negative feelings like guilt, anger, and resentment.  Caregivers will often encounter conflicts with their care giving role to a parent or spouse as roles reverse. Some people will experience the feelings of not being able meet their developmental agenda such as having to deny a promotion or skip a vacation because of their care responsibilities, whereas a peer would be able to accept these opportunities.   It is these obligations that all caregivers will encounter that make the concern of a more satisfying respite experience so vital.

What was something that was important to me and I enjoyed before I was a caregiver?  This is one of the best questions to ask yourself as you begin to identify the best use of your respite time.  You will be more satisfied with your time off if you use it to connect with something that is important to whom you are as a person.   Here are some ways to make the most of your respite time

  • Create balanced expectations and goals for your respite time.  In a four hour time slot, you cannot expect to accomplish multiple loads of laundry and clean the house from top to bottom.  Your time might be better spent taking a walk in your favorite park and accomplishing just a couple loads of laundry.
  • Plan your time.  Consider taking a class, or joining a group activity.  Set up a lunch date with a friend and commit yourself to attending the event
  • Use respite time to the maximum of its benefits.  Become educated in care giving and the services available.  Attend seminars that can help clarify types of respite options in your community.
  • Begin using respite services early in your care giving career.  It is best not to wait until you are at the end of your patience and completely burnt out.  Respite programs are more successful when they are begun early in the care giving career
  •  Use respite regularly at scheduled times.  Plan to use the respite program on a regular basis so you can become used to knowing when you will have time off.  This will make it easier to plan a better use of your respite time.
  • Use respite in sufficient amounts that allow you to accomplish your goals.  Consider this like medication and its dosage. Take what you need to feel better.   If you need several full days to accomplish your goal, a respite program that is half day once a week will be frustrating. Instead think about using Adult Day Care services or Companion Services that can provide large blocks of time with more flexibility.
  • Use respite with other services such as emotional and social support, transportation, nutrition, and other caregiver services.  Contact your local senior services to find out what is available in your community.  Here are some local agencies that can offer guidance.
    • Helpful Websites