2. Managing feelings about respite care
Whatever the reasons for respite care, it can affect people who care for someone with dementia in different ways. Some may feel worried or guilty about taking a break and leaving the person they are supporting, even for a short period. It is important to remember the following points:
- If a carer stretches themselves too far and becomes ill or depressed, life may become more difficult both for them and the person with dementia.
- Carers are entitled to time to themselves, in order to do what they want to do.
- Many carers find it helpful to discuss their concerns with a professional who has knowledge of dementia, with other carers or with someone on the Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline.
If possible, they should also discuss the situation with the person with dementia. They may prefer one sort of arrangement to another.
It is natural to prefer to stay in familiar surroundings, especially for someone living with dementia. The person may not fully understand why they have to go away and may feel confused, or may say they don’t want to go. This can make the person who normally cares for them feel guilty about wanting or needing some time alone. However, it is important to remember that taking an occasional break is good both for the carer and the person with dementia, as time apart will enable the carer to ‘recharge’ their batteries and feel refreshed.
Tips: avoiding distress
- Avoid discussing arrangements too far ahead of the planned date.
- When the time for the break comes, be positive in your explanation.
It might be helpful to talk about the break in the context of a ‘little holiday’.
- Reassure the person with dementia that they will be well cared for and that they will be coming home again.
- Remember that any insecurity or uncertainty you show may cause the person with dementia to feel afraid, so try to stay calm and give information in a clear and simple manner.
- Remember that it is not selfish to want or need a rest.