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6 Reasons Dementia Caregivers Avoid Taking Breaks

Dementia caregivers need breaks, but may avoid getting help by using excuses or rationalizations to justify an unrealistic decision to handle things alone

Don’t avoid getting help with caregiving

“I can manage fine without a break.”

“I can’t find affordable help.”

“Nobody looks after her as well as I can.”

Have you ever said these things to yourself?

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a tough job that comes with a great deal of stress. 

So what’s the best way to lower caregiver stress? Getting help so you can take regular breaks to rest and recharge.

But many caregivers find themselves avoiding getting help.

They may use excuses or rationalizations to justify an unrealistic decision to handle things alone.

In her article at HuffPost, Paula Spencer Scott, an experienced Alzheimer’s caregiver, shares 6 examples of excuses that we often tell ourselves – and why we shouldn’t believe our own justifications.

These “reasons” only prevent us from getting the help we need and deserve. 

She also explains why taking breaks, using services like adult day programs, and getting caregiving help make such a big difference. 

We’ve summarized the key points from her article and added our own perspective and helpful resources.


6 excuses that prevent dementia caregivers from taking breaks

1. “I can manage fine without a break.”

Many dementia caregivers insist that they don’t need breaks at all. This is a noble goal, but isn’t realistic. 

Every human needs breaks from any job to rest and recharge and caregiving is no exception.

Not taking breaks quickly leads to caregiver burnout. Being “on” all the time increases stress, frustration, and resentment as well as worsens overall health and well-being.

Studies in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and from Pennsylvania State University showed that levels of key stress hormones in family caregivers improved immediately after taking a break.

Their bodies had a chance to recover from the stress. And not surprisingly, their moods improved as well.

2. “It causes me more stress to get her there.”

When caregivers are told about options like adult day programs, a common response is that the stress of getting their older adult there would outweigh the benefits of the break they’d get.

That’s simply not true. Studies have shown that it’s not more stressful to get someone to and from a day program than to not use it at all.

The benefits of getting essential time away from caregiving makes a significant difference in health (and far outweighs the hassle of transportation). 

It also enables you to keep going for the long term.

3. “It’s just babysitting.”

You might think that an adult day program or other respite program isn’t worth the cost because they’re only getting supervision. 

But most programs are filled with kind-hearted staff and engaging activities. 

Of course, the quality of each program will vary, so it’s a good idea to observe a few to find one you like.

Plus, being social and interacting with more people is often beneficial for someone with dementia.


4. “My mom/husband/etc. will never go for it.”

Many caregivers say that their older adult would never consider attending a day program.

Sometimes it’s all about the way you present the idea and in other cases, you’ll have to force them to try it out for a few weeks.

Many older adults are open to the idea of going to a “club” or to an “occupational therapy program” recommended by the doctor.

In other cases, older adults initially have to be forced to go under protest, but after having time to adjust, end up really enjoying the activities and added social interaction.

5. “I can’t find affordable help.”

Low-cost or free services for people with dementia aren’t always easy to find.

But it can be well worth the effort to search for helpful programs in your area.

Start with these organizations:

  1. The local Area Agency on Aging (they’ll connect you to a variety of community programs)

  2. The National Adult Day Services Association

  3. The Eldercare Locator

Another thing to consider is asking family or friends to help.

It may seem like a hassle to arrange, but the stress-relieving benefits you’ll get will far outweigh the inconvenience or effort.

For example, if a friend can keep your older adult company while you run errands or visit your own doctor, that’s a huge help.

Or, consider hiring a companion to do activities or sit with your older adult a few hours each week.

Local community service and faith organizations may also have volunteer programs where they visit with older adults, giving you time to take a nap or get coffee with a friend.

6. “Nobody looks after her as well as I can.”

It’s true that you know your older adult best and have created the care routines that keep them safe, comfortable, and happy. 

But you’re not looking for someone to completely replace you, you’re just looking for help so you can get a little time to recharge.

It’s very common to experience guilt and anxiety around having someone else care for your older adult.

To help you get used to the idea, focus on the long-term benefits you’ll gain and the added social interaction your older adult will get.

And remind yourself that it’s not selfish to take breaks. It’s how you’ll keep yourself healthy enough to keep being a caregiver for the long haul.

In fact, taking regular breaks helps you recharge your patience and creative problem-solving abilities – which benefits both you and your older adult.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team

This article wasn’t sponsored and doesn’t contain affiliate links. For more information, see How We Make Money.


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