Information and Support to Care For Your Aging Parent

Leaving Loved Ones: How to Vacation Guilt Free

A woman packing a suitcase. Article about taking a vacation as a caretaker.

When you are managing a household, a business, or a job, finding time for a vacation can be a challenge. In fact, a 2019 study showed that 768 million vacation days went unused by American workers in a single year. 

Families who also care for a loved one are even more likely to stay home and skip the vacation. Families acting as caretakers not only deserve a guilt-free vacation but it could be crucial to our caring longevity. Here are a few tips on how to go on that getaway while still maintaining an excellent level of care for an aging parent.

Check Your Guilt with Your Bags

Feelings of guilt, sorry, and shame are totally normal.  We have been conditioned to feel like we are solely responsible for the well-being of our parents, and it can feel impossible to let that go.  However, giving in to these feelings can compromise the very intent of our getaway—respite and self-care. 

Thoughts like “I should just stay home or “no one else can care the way I do” are understandable but ultimately untrue. It is important we confront and intentionally process these thoughts and then decide when we will drop them. 

If you are flying somewhere, consider processing your worry until you board the plane, then choosing to intentionally combat and let go of feelings of worry after take-off. 

If you are driving somewhere, consider using the drive time to really check in with your loved one and then drop the guilt on the non-travel days and lighten communication. Some time away will help our self-care allowing us to return as better supporters of our family.  Just like you need vacation from your job, you need vacation from this work too.

An elderly man and his son discuss internet findings.

Create a Care Plan

Occasional time away is needed and important for self-care.  While time away does need some planning, keep things in perspective. Remember, this plan does not have to be something that works for months or years, but rather, something that only needs to last and function the duration of the getaway. 

So, do not be afraid to ask for favors, use resources, or spend a little extra money to make a care plan that works. Start by writing out all of your responsibilities, from check-in calls to grocery drop-offs to drives to appointments, specifically for dates you will be gone. 

Next, group these responsibilities into categories: things that can wait until we are back, things that can still happen with preplanning, and things we can have another fill-in. For instance, perhaps your normal grocery run for mom can be ordered and prescheduled through a third party, a friend can step in for that doctor’s appointment, or, a hired hand can check in for 2 hours a day. Work backward, create a plan, and communicate this plan with a loved one so that they are comfortable with it.  Remind yourself that you don’t need their permission to leave, and they will survive a few days of someone else filling in.

Create a Communication Plan

Once we have created and discussed a care plan with our loved ones, we next will want to decide what level of communication is appropriate while we travel. Do we want daily updates? Calls? Only emergency calls? This decision is entirely up to each individual and their loved one, depending on everyone’s comfort. 

 Creating a plan will give us and our aging parent structure and may even alleviate any guilt, knowing we will still care from afar.  Be sure to prepare for this communication plan. For instance:

  • Check the internet and phone service at the final destination
  • Make sure medical releases are signed
  • Outfit a loved one with the technology they might need
  • Have people in place ready in case an emergency occurs

Remember that everyone gets frustrated by their loved one sometimes and a break is healthy for everybody involved.  Check out our Facebook Group to chat with others struggling with similar problems and see what solutions we can come up with together!

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