If you are the main caregiver for an elderly parent or are concerned about going out of town as you are worried about an elderly loved one, here are some tips to make it more comfortable for everyone.

What to remember:

  • Distance from a loved one can certainly help replenish the relationship, and we all need a break;
  • Like they say in an airplane, put your oxygen mask on before you put it on someone else’s;
  • There should not be any related guilt for taking care of yourself.

Look around you, different people or organizations surround you regarding care, support or supervision that you need for your parent while you are away:

  • Friendly neighbours;
  • A family member who can come into town during your absence;
  • A short term stay at a retirement community;
  • Home care could range from live-in to hourly staff or an organization that can come in to provide respite during the required period.

Perhaps you think that you are the only one who can provide the best care for your elderly parent or that your Dad will not let anyone else in, as a mother of two, I fully understand. We all know that it takes a village and that we can not be the sole provider of someone’s care. The fears of abandonment or that something might happen while you are away are all a reality and very hard to deal with.  By stepping away to regenerate, it is healthy for everyone and is also needed for you and for everyone, on a regular basis

If the parent you are a caregiver for lives with memory loss, then having them stay at home might be a wiser option. If this is the case, make sure to have a caregiver that can handle the situation and is educated in the type of memory loss at hand and how to deflect aggressive behavior, if there is any.

Whatever the set-up that is decided upon, you must trust that all will work out nicely and that the person(s) hired or volunteering or even visiting will be able to handle everything sent their way. When they face a precarious situation, they will do it their way—just like you have done many-a-times.

Items to coordinate and communicate before you leave:

  • If there are medical appointments during your trip, provide the details of why there is this appointment and what questions need to be asked;
  • The current prescriptions
    • Ensure they expire sometime after your return;
    • Ensure the person assisting Mom is aware of which medication to administer at what time of day, what the effects might look like if proper administration is not accurate and that the caregiver has the complete list of medications;
    • Share the tricks that you use if your loved one refuses to take medication.
  • Leave emergency contact names and resources in a visible location. Make sure your name is not at the top of the list!;
  • If assistance with bathing or incontinence care is required, share the details of the steps, the products used and what the best approach is as well as what time of day, or even the day of the week, that is better for bathing or grooming.

If staying at home is the best option, provide this information with one pivot person who can share it with others, if needed:

  • Walkthrough the house to share the set-up and the run of the house;
  • Indicate which night lights should be left on;
  • What are activities or TV shows that are appreciated;
  • If there are any allergies make sure to communicate them;
  • Leave some petty cash for special outings or emergencies;
  • Share who the service providers are that could be called upon or those who have regular appointments and will be coming to the house
    • What task will be accomplished while they are there; are there questions to ask on your behalf, communicate what those questions are. Provide a notebook so all the information can be found in a centralized place.
    • If your Dad attends a day center, share the details of the transportation to and from as well as what his typical day will look like there.
  • To ensure everyone is on the same page dedicate one main person to be the leader or the coordinator during your absence so that lines are clear, and you know whom to communicate with;
  • Don’t forget the pet care, if there is any.

If it is a better option to do a short term stay at a retirement residence, here are items to pay attention to:

  • It is always better not to arrive or leave during a weekend as the core staff is not usually there, so you and your Dad might be better served during the week, especially to settle in;
  • Even if it is for a short period of time, ensure that your elderly parent will like the feel of the new environment and will be able to connect with the people while they live there. Ideally, a short-term stay occurs at a residence that could turn into a long-term option;
  • Ask while you sign the contract what will be supplied and by whom, as well as if there might be extra costs for different services;
  • If a guest comes for a meal what will be the related cost? Can they eat in the suite or they must eat in the dining room? Is a reservation necessary and by what time of the day must the front desk be informed? Knowing these answers eases the guests’ visit and eases the integration into the community for your Mom or Dad, even if it is for a short period;
  • Should you or a family member contact the community obtain the name of the contact person and their extension, it might not be the person signing the agreement or greeting you during the initial visit;
  • For your Mom or Dad, who is their main contact at the residence, it might be different than yours. Ensure that that name and phone number is placed in an easy to find location in their suite. Discover the use of phone system with your loved one, as silly as it may seem, this can encourage the feeling of safety, in case there is a special number to dial an external number or how to buzz a guest in at the front door test it out a couple of times;
  • Share as much information as possible regarding your parent with the residence as this will heighten the experience for your elderly parent, for the residence and for you, which will help you travel with rested head.

Whatever the budget is for the planned vacation make sure to include mishaps that can happen at home and for the care and or extra support for Mom or Dad.

Go play. Go recharge your batteries. Trust that the options you have put in place are the right ones and that whatever might happen will be taken care of adequately. There are always a lot of options that can be explored and tapped into.  A get-a-way is for sure doable even when care for an elderly loved one is required.

With a good break everyone will be happy to see each other again, so go play!