Getting Care For Caregiver

Caregivers need to find support for themselves, or they will succumb to exhaustion, burnout.

by Leann Reynolds • More.com Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

There are countless ways to find assistance and even relief from day-to-day caregiving when people seek out much needed time to care for themselves. This might mean hiring someone to do the lawn care or making time to visit with a friend. But when it comes to much bigger caregiving responsibilities, such as travel, the logistics can be overwhelming and filled with guilt.

“One of the problems with caregiving is the guilt that we feel,” said Kimarie Jones, who has a daughter with special needs and is the founder of Preferred Travel Helpers. “We feel guilty that only we can do it all. We are the best caregivers and it’s hard for us to let go of the control piece.”

This tendency to do it all flies in the face of expert advice that caregivers need to find support for themselves too or they will succumb to depression, exhaustion, burnout, and even illness themselves.

Ms. Jones founded her business to help others like her be able to live their lives fully, even as they continue to be caregivers to loved ones. “When I was on vacation, the burden of all the caregiving was on me,” she said. “It’s not about giving up control, but about sharing the control.”

With a trend in multi-generational travel, this means that the parents—the sandwich generation—are caring for little ones and elderly ones while on their vacations as well as during daily life. “Our threshold is so low on what we need to feel rejuvenated that just one hour at a spa can be rejuvenating,” said Ms. Jones with a laugh. “People need to feel that they are worthy and deserve additional help for themselves.”

Preferred Travel Helpers can assist with getting a loved from one place to another, or accompany a family on a trip so that someone can stay with children during naptime or handle a wheelchair.

Kim Kinyonafox of San Jose, California, wasn’t questioning whether or not she felt worthy of additional help when she needed to fly her 91-year old grandmother out from Chicago to her wedding last year. “Honestly, I was really, really nervous,” she said of finding someone to fly with her grandmother. She felt that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her elderly grandmother to come to the wedding, but she also worried about what might happen in a medical emergency during travel. “As the bride, I could not fly there and fly back with her and then fly her back to Chicago and fly back home.”

Her grandmother did make the trip and attend the wedding with a Preferred Travel Helper. “It was such a success that I did not worry at all about her return trip,” she said.

However, it can still be a lot to handle when there is no assistance. “When she is here with us visiting, it is hard mentally not to have her with us every second, and I have a new husband and two kids to be with too,” Ms. Kinyonafox said. “I do struggle with that.”

While Ms. Kinyonafox’s need for additional caregiving help was for a very happy family occasion, other times caregivers need an extra pair of hands during a medical crisis. Joanie Pappalardo of Denver, Colorado, was not sure how she would move her father-in-law from Bethesda, Maryland to Denver: her husband is suffering from brain cancer and her father-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s disease, was awaiting discharge from the hospital and needed to be moved into assisted care living. Mrs. Pappalardo, 59, is retired from the local school district, and has two grown children and a grandson.

“It was somewhat of a dilemma,” she said of how to have her father-in-law transported to Colorado. “I could not leave my husband, and family members were not able to help. I wanted it to be a man to travel with him in case he needed help in the restroom.”

Mrs. Pappalardo’s father-in-law was successfully moved from Maryland to Colorado and is in a new assisted living home. “I am still in the midst of a juggling act,” she said of caring for her husband and father-in-law. “The best support is from family—it brings me comfort and helps me with the stress.”

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