By Kim Atchley
Many in the Upstate have become excited about the impending arrival of Southwest Airlines. The reported low fares and exciting destinations are inspiring dreams of travel and get-aways. But a caregiver will often scoff at the idea of travel, even if not on a plane. But caregivers dream on – really.
Caregivers follow a road each day that involves nurturing others with efforts in work, household duties and family activities. Caregiving wraps the life roads of others around yours. But what do you see ahead on your road, for yourself and your family? Sometimes when life roads weave together, it’s difficult to look ahead.
Do you want to take a family vacation this year, but you ‘know’ you can’t because your mother or mother-in-law lives with you and needs care?
What about the senior adult woman caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s?
Her road of life may seem pretty clear. She’s walking along it holding up a person she loves so that he can travel it too. But maybe she’d like to take a stroll down an intersecting pathway once in a while?
She can dream too. But she’s often reluctant to call in her children or extended family for the support she’d need to make her dream or goal a reality, just as the primary caregiver for an in-law may be reluctant to call in other family members for support. They forget, or don’t let themselves, dream. Or, they spend their time making the dreams of others come true and pushing their own aside. Feelings of guilt and selfishness push away the thoughts that lead a caregiver’s mind, heart, and family to some much needed rest. Is this sounding familiar?
But is taking your family on a camping adventure or heading to Disney while someone else cares for Grandma or Pops or Aunt Sue really restful? Most would argue that any big family trip is not restful. But it can give your family as a whole a ‘rest’ from the day to day pressure of caring for a loved one and open some space for some great memories to be made. Despite the love involved, caregiving is a pressure and it is okay to admit it. Everyone needs a break from the various pressures of life.
We love our children yet appreciate it when we don’t have the pressure of them going grocery shopping with us at various stages of their lives. Juggling pressures is part of life. Setting goals and living dreams is one way to do that.
So do you, the wife who has been lovingly tending her ailing husband want something for yourself? Maybe it’s a weekend trip to visit your old high school friend who has been inviting you for years?
But how can dreams be fulfilled when the road of a caregiver is filled with twists and turns determined by the complexities and unpredictable nature of health?
Step one: Dream. Step 2: put backup in place. Step 3: plan for the worst. Dream for a while. Really think about something you want to do and let it fill a special place in your heart. Line up your ‘second string’ players. Train them to do what you’ve been doing. Give them time to learn. Organize what you can ahead of time. But get the travel insurance. With health issues involved, the travel insurance is a reasonable cost to factor in. Will the care offered your loved one be the same you would offer? No. Is that okay? Yes.
Let yourself dream and if those dreams involved flying, well, you’ve got a new airline to check out. I hear that flights to Baltimore-Washington, Chicago, Nashville, Houston, and Orlando are going to be even easier to come by in March!
Kim Atchley is a freelance writer, speaker and caregiver advocate. She’s also written tips for traveling with your aging parent and facilitating a senior’s travel plans in the When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for this Season of Life which she co-authored with Candy Arrington. You can reach Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Despite the love involved, caregiving is a pressure and it is okay to admit it. Everyone needs a break from the various pressures of life.