Escape! Get Away so You Can Stay

Montrose Daily Press [March 25, 2018] Kathryn R. Burke

There comes a day when you say, “If I have to change one more pair of pull-ups, I’m going to strangle her with them!”

Oh, oh! Caregiver compassion just took a vacation. You better take a break, too, or it might be a one-way trip. Taking care of someone long-term wears you out. It will test your endurance beyond endurance. You just plain run out of gas. And patience.

It happens to all of us, sometimes with increasing frequency as caregiving tasks become more intense, and thus, more wearisome. If you need to keep on moving forward, take a step back. Escape. Get away. So you can stay.

I fly away. Literally. Did you know that a certain airline flies Montrose (in winter) or Grand Junction (in summer) to LAX for less than $100? The flight lasts about an hour. In LA, I Uber it to Union Station, train down to San Diego—lovely, long ride along the coast—booking a ‘senior’ seat in handicapped, ground-level car with roomy restroom, and rarely any fellow passengers. Upstairs, a bar which offers adult libations, in case I need a little more relaxation. This is a vacation after all, and I’m not driving.

But I could be. Driving. So long as the drive is to a destination at least one tank of gas away (but no more than two). Like Santa Fe—think hot salsa, cold margaritas, and flamenco music. Or Sedona—with flaming sunsets, 24-hour golf courses, hot tubs, and cool pools. Or maybe Denver—museums, zoo, botanical gardens, LoDo with great restaurants and shopping.

Wherever your destination, it should be far enough that you can’t rush back and change those pull-ups.

You must also stay out of touch enough that caregiving duties, worries, scheduling, and management are not part of your respite agenda. Leave the cell phone in a dresser drawer or your suitcase and vow to check it only twice a day. You’re away. Whatever happens, you can’t fix it in person. Leave written instructions. Don’t spoil your retreat by hanging on the phone telling someone what to do and how to do it. Delegate, then let go.

I’m assuming your Careé (the one you care for) is at home. (Careé, because the term ‘loved one’ likely does not apply at this juncture.) Call on family, friends, volunteers, paid caregivers, to take over while you’re away. If all else fails, put your Careé in a residential home while you take a break. If you can’t find a ‘who’ to help or a ‘where’ to send your Careé, contact a Region 10 Options Counselor. You’ll be surprised at how many resources there are.

Then, get help and go, go, go. Put on your big-girl-panties, self-kick yourself in the anatomical area they cover, and get the hell out of Dodge! No excuses. And yes, you can afford it—cut back to the basics, buy cheaper groceries for a couple weeks, dip into savings, get a loan. When you get there, stay with friends or family, or worst case, in a cheap motel. (I do all three, or ‘borrow’ a friend’s time-share.)

Oh, that $100 flight? They fly only two days a week, four or seven days apart, so when you get gone, you know you can stay gone for more than a couple days. And they fly lots of places, not just LA, but always a destination with a return flight four or seven days later. It’s built-in protection against ‘I changed my mind’ premature returns.

Think Escape! Get away so you can stay, and start packing now!

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Kathryn R Burke is the author the Caregiver’s Journey series: Navigating the Path, Building Your Care Team, and The Caregiver’s Cookbook. She also publishes other books on caregiving and is available for public presentations and in-service caregiver training. Meet her at the Region 10 Caregiver Summit, June 10th. Learn more at caregiver-journey.com.