This Caregiver Needs a Break


I haven't been away from Charlie for more than two hours at a time since July of 2013. I have decided I am due for a respite, and thanks to his daughter, it appears that this is going to be possible.

There are two young people in Florida who have never met their great grandmother, and my sister has a new home she has been waiting for the past year to show off, so I have finally convinced myself that it is time to make the trip.

I have spent many sleepless hours mulling over all the reasons I shouldn't go.

Number one, of course, is Charlie. He always looks forward to a visit from his daughter but he doesn't deal well with change. And I am certain that the entire time I am gone he will be expecting me to walk in the door any minute. Time just doesn't mean a thing to him. If I tell him I will be gone for ten days he will still expect me to be back at bedtime.

Number two on my list of excuses is my irritable bowel syndrome. I will probably have to fast for two days prior to the trip in order to assure a problem-free journey. Also, the family cooks will have to deal with my many food problems. It almost takes the pleasure out of travel.

The third obstacle to such a trip is the New England winter weather. It can be fickle at best. It seems as though every time I schedule a trip by plane the weather raises its ugly head and causes distress.

We have a ninety-minute drive from our home to the nearest airport, through the White Mountains, a drive that can be treacherous at times. My anxiety level is certain to spike in the coming days, until we get the weather report.Then, when it's time to fly home, the anxiety will set in again.Since I have had two trips affected by severe weather conditions, this anxiety is not without foundation.I will be sure to pack my anxiety pills.

I am concerned that my extended absence will have some long-term effect on Charlie's dementia. You just never know how a dementia patient will react to change and loss. I hope I will come back ready to cope with his problems in a more cheerful manner. If that happens, the trip will have benefitted both of us.

P.S.Here I am, three days from departure. The weather promises to be good for the southbound part of the trip. I am praying for the same on February 1st. But Charlie, who gave his blessing for the trip, is developing anxieties.

His calendar is constantly on his lap and he goes over the details at least once an hour. And he has suddenly developed a pain in his elbow requiring Aleve, joint analgesic cream and a pillow under his arm. I am giving him all the sympathy I can muster, but have to wonder what new problem swill develop between now and Friday.

It's almost enough to make me cancel the trip. Almost.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

View full profile

You May Also Like

Free AgingCare Guides

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!


I'm with you, Marlis. My husband is a quadriplegic, and so many things can go wrong with his care and his needs. However, he is completely clear, mentally, which makes for better communication. I've been caring for him for 8 years and I know how truly lonely that is. I do errands alone, stay up late with chores alone, everything alone, all the time. I do have respite services and I hope when you get back, if you haven't already, you will try to get that benefit from the feds and state programs that should be available to you. It is the only program we qualify for, and we pay for everything else ourselves. There is a reasonable co-pay, and sometimes when our regular worker is no longer with the company it takes some time to find someone suitable, but it has been a good program for me. His care is very complicated, so the respite doesn't do anything hands-on, but can do little duties around the house and keep him comfortable and companionship. That doesn't fix the breakdown of my body in doing the physical work of transfers, dressing, etc., and I've had to hire for a couple of hours 3 or 4 times a day. That has cut into available funds to the point that I wouldn't be able to afford to go away, anyhow. I used to go, though. My mother passed away three years ago, and I miss her so much. I used to take care of her as much as possible, too, except that she lived far away and I would go a couple of times a year to stay a few days and see her, and see to her needs. I moved her twice and she was finally in a nursing home where they finished her off within 6 months. My grieving won't stop. But I know I was better for her than not. It was so hard to explain to her that I couldn't care for her here along with my husband. I didn't have it in me to see to the needs of both of them. When I would travel, I just took extreme measures so I wouldn't find myself in a bad situation. Same with IBS, etc. I had to stay in a hotel, but I made sure I enjoyed it. Long baths, good food, slept in. I hope you'll try some new remedies for your IBS when you can. I don't take medication, just management. My doctor prescribed the opposite you would imagine and it has really saved me from the symptoms I used to suffer. Just have to keep away from some foods when I'm not going to be at home. I know how confining and distressful it can be to worry about this. I hope you have a great trip, and that you pamper yourself in every way possible. Go for the luxury and indulge yourself like you wouldn't ordinarily do. You may feel exactly the same when you get home, but you'll have some photos, and some good memories, and you can start planning your next escape!
For many reasons I didn't think hubby would do well with my respite of 7 days. I was very wrong, all he needed to hear was that I would be home soon. Good enough, and then after a day or so he didn't ask any more and enjoyed the full attention of my awsome brother. IBS is miserable, (mine cured with adjusting my thyroid meds) take your survival foods and ENJOY your trip. Husband will be fine and you will be refreshed with the change of scenery.
Oh Marlis, what a good wife you are. May the Lord bless and keep you safe on your well deserved vacation. And may the Lord also bless Charlie in your absence.!!