The last time my husband and I vacationed separately was 8 years ago, or so, when he spent some time bonding with his two grown sons, on a fishing trip. I think because of our caregiving duties with his mother, it came as a bit of a surprise to me when he leaped at the chance to combine seeing his eldest grandson play in a hockey tournament and take in some of the Barrett Jackson collector car auction, all in the space of 6 or 7 days. Then, once he’d made his bookings, and I mentioned to him that he’d somehow forgotten about me, he suggested I check out my travel points’ plan balance and get myself a ticket, and we’d get a little holiday in the sun. But, I then was force to burst his bubble by asking, “And exactly who will take care of your mother?” There it was right before our eyes – the reality of giving care for a family member, while attempting to plan time away.
Unless family caregivers plan well in advance, joint time away is almost impossible. Luckily for Philippe in this case, I really can’t afford the time away right now, as my business is gaining momentum and needs my attention. But, I must confess that I am not thrilled about the idea of me taking care of my mother-in-law while her son is away and I am missing time in the sun. In addition, Philippe serves as the buffer between these two women in his life. You see, for Annie, Philippe can do no wrong, and even when she doesn’t want to make changes we need her to make, if Annie’s Philippe sits down and helps her digest a new plan, or remind her of an old plan she no longer follows, everything is fine and our worlds tick along without a hitch.
So, here is what I’ve negotiated with Philippe, to give me some peace of mind while I am called upon to serve as the lone caregiver: that he will investigate and arrange a roaming package for his cell phone that will allow me to have access to Annie’s Philippe should we run into a snag, and need the golden boy to smooth the waters and make things right. Truth be known, I have very little fear of that type of situation developing, but I sure do want that escape route if I need it.
And so these are the trials and tribulations of family caregivers attempting to get away from it all. Without a doubt caregiver vacations can be arranged, but they take time and energy to put everything in place, sometimes to the extent that the effort needed to make the vacation happen makes the whole particularly enticing. In fact, by the time you leave for the vacation, you might feel like you are taking a secret time away, except that the whole world knows about it because they’ve had to become involved in the planning. Come to think of it, here we are back to the reality that becoming a caregiver of aging family members often seems very much like raising children, and before taking on this responsibility you really do need to carefully consider the gravity of your decision.
So here is your call to action: if you are considering taking on the responsibility for someone’s care, take a careful look at your own lifestyle and determine to what extent you are willing to change it, and identify how you will be able to arrange much needed vacations. In addition, think about the alternatives to you taking on this role, and do it only if you are up to it. Remember to identify potential escape clauses, should you need to exercise them in the future. Also, to attempt to avoid this situation, identify in your planning alternative caregivers and discuss options such as sharing the responsibilities in order to spread the load.
Yours in caregiving,