As a family caregiver, you may feel it is nearly impossible to take a break. This role often involves an around-the-clock commitment to your loved one, so you may feel you need to be available at all times. However, as a caregiver, it is crucial that you find time to take small breaks. According to research, personalized, short breaks can lead to positive improvements in caregivers’ health and wellbeing. It can even improve your relationship with the loved one in your care. On the other hand, not taking breaks can result in burnout, mental and physical health issues, sleep disturbances, and more.
Fortunately, whether you need a few minutes, a day, or even longer, there are solutions to help you get the breaks you need. Below, you will discover a list of 50 ways for family caregivers to take a break. These include quick activities at home and more extended options, all with the goal of tending to your wellbeing. Compile your favorites into a personalized caregiver toolkit and use them as often as you’d like.
1. Practice deep breathing
A 2016 study showed that deep breathing relaxation practices lowered strain and systolic blood pressure for dementia caregivers. So, find a video online or attend a workshop to learn how to practice deep breathing, and introduce it throughout your day.
2. Take a hydration break
Caregiving is a physically demanding job. Drinking more water can improve your physical health and provide a quick break as well. Prepare yourself a water bottle, maybe with a wedge of lemon, to carry with you throughout the day. It will act as a reminder to take a short break, breathe, and rehydrate.
3. Take a break with music
Studies suggest dancing can improve emotional wellbeing, coping strategies, and self-esteem. So, turn on your favorite song and dance for a short, energizing break.
4. Try adult day services
For a longer break, you can try adult day services. Search for options in your area to bring your loved one to a facility, or invite a caregiving professional into your home for the day.
5. Choose a task and ask for help
Asking for help may feel difficult, but the act helps caregivers avoid isolation and strengthen their sense of community. If extended support is unavailable to you, try asking a friend or family member for help with one task, like preparing meals or doing laundry.
6. Take a short stroll
If you are able, taking a short stroll can have numerous benefits for a caregiver. Physical activity can help you prevent illness and boost your mental wellness. Plus, a nice change of scenery will do wonders for your mood.
7. Make a list
As a caregiver, you may feel there are millions of thoughts constantly running through your mind. Pause to get it all on paper, making lists for both you and your loved one. This will help free up mental space to focus on the tasks at hand.
8. Make your favorite hot beverage
A nice coffee, tea, or apple cider provides a cozy moment of respite with each sip. If you don’t have much time for a break, try savoring a few sips of your favorite drink to gain a sense of calm.
9. Call a loved one
Caregivers often report feeling socially isolated. You may miss friends or family, and they surely miss you too. Social support is proven to improve physical and mental health and helps us build resilience, so plan a call and enjoy a nice break catching up with a loved one.
10. Do a short exercise
These days, exercise doesn’t have to mean leaving the house, and it doesn’t have to take much time. Try an online fitness instructor, like walking at home with Leslie Sansone, and build a quick, rejuvenating break into your day.
11. Check for community resources
A 2013 study suggested 85 percent of caregivers felt a lack of community resources. Of course, these will depend on where you live, but churches and community centers are good places to start. Check your local networks to find volunteers or other forms of caregiver relief in your community.
12. Try Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a non-profit that helps seniors age with dignity by delivering meals across the country. This can help you build in a break by freeing up the time you’d normally spend preparing meals. Head to their website and search for programs near you.
13. Take a time out
Time outs are typically for children, but why not use this strategy for yourself? When you notice you are more irritable or frustrated than normal, put yourself in “time out” for a few minutes to regain composure.
14. Try respite care
Respite care is a service that offers a short-term break for family caregivers. This can happen at home, in a daycare facility, or in a residential center that permits overnight stays.
15. Work with a caregiver coop
Caregiver Cooperatives work with caregivers across the country to provide in-home care services. Find one in your area and learn the ways they can offer relief.
16. Take a nap
Studies show that over half of family caregivers experience sleep disturbances. Sleep issues and sleep deprivation significantly impact your physical and mental health, so try to nap or rest when your loved one takes some quiet time.
Daily stretching can help you keep muscle tension at bay. Plus, it offers a nice pause for both the body and the mind. Take a ten-minute stretching break as an act of kindness for yourself.
18. Prioritize your mental health
Many caregivers experience depression, anxiety, or grief along with their role. If you don’t have time to seek professional mental health services, you can take a quick break to talk to a therapist online through an app like Talkspace.
19. Keep a gratitude journal
Gratitude journaling is the act of writing down things you are grateful for in a notebook. Taking a quick break to jot these items down has been shown to improve sleep and lower stress in regular gratitude practitioners.
20. Watch a funny video
They say laughter is the best medicine, and it’s true. So, try taking a few minutes to laugh at a funny video to reduce stress, and promote muscle relaxation.
21. Check if Medicare can help
Medicare offers resources to those that receive their coverage. So, take a look at their website to explore the caregiver aid they have available.
22. Find a companion
Companions are volunteers who can visit and develop a relationship with your loved one. This offers an important opportunity to socialize and frees you up to take a much-needed break.
23. Check for financial support
The US government website offers resources for family caregivers. Take a look at their support offerings and discover new ways that you can take a break.
24. Look into help for specific circumstances like Veteran aid
If your loved one is a Veteran, they have special support resources available to them. Check the website for the US Department of Veteran Affairs to learn how these resources can offer you some relief.
25. Look into non-profits that offer services
Non-profits like Youth Care offer free in-home activities that your loved one can enjoy. This non-profit in Los Angeles brings trained undergraduate and graduate students into the home to engage in stimulating activities. Search for services like this in your area to get some downtime at home.
26. Invite younger family members for a visit
Younger family members can also provide relief. Invite them over to visit with your loved one while you take a bit of time for yourself.
27. Bring a knitting project
Taking time to do an activity with your hands can lower physical tension and help you calm down. Try knitting or another simple craft as a way to take a break when you can’t get away.
28. Online courses
29. Take a break with a pet
Being around pets or therapy animals can relieve stress and feelings of social isolation as it increases levels of oxytocin in your brain. So, try bringing a calm pet with you to your caregiving location or visit a neighbor’s pet for a few minutes of cheer.
30. Ask teenage neighbors to help with yard work or chores
Luckily, teenagers often love doing chores for a bit of spending money. Ask teenage neighbors or family members if they’d like to help you with yard work or other tasks.
31. Take a break to have a favorite snack
32. Try a guided meditation
33. Watch your favorite show
34. Have groceries and other essentials delivered
35. Ask a neighbor to visit for tea
36. Pay a professional caregiver for one hour
37. Add breaks into your daily schedule
38. Try an at-home facial
39. Try aromatherapy
40. Pick up a childhood hobby
41. Try a self-massage
43. Sit in the sun for five minutes
44. Listen to a podcast or audiobook
45. Practice mindful eating
46. Plan a fun way to unwind later
47. Prop your feet up for a few minutes
48. Write a letter to an old friend
49. Order delivery food
50. Make a list of the ways to take a break that works best for you
To sum up, caregiving is a mentally and physically strenuous role, and it may feel like you’re never off the clock. However, there are resources to help, and at-home strategies to help you get a bit more time for yourself. Everyone’s methods will be unique to their situation and needs, but getting more breaks is possible. In short, you should take some time to develop your caregiver tool kit and give yourself some much-deserved relief.
- Water and Healthier Drinks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/water-and-healthier-drinks.html
- Exercising When You’re Caring for Someone Else, AARP, https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/find-time-for-exercise.html
- Effect of Deep Breathing Relaxation Intervention on Caregiver Strain and Blood Pressure in Family Caregivers of Persons with Dementia, Drexel University Libraries, https://idea.library.drexel.edu/islandora/object/idea:7327
- Social Support and Resilience to Stress, NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/
- Unmet needs of community-residing persons with dementia and their informal caregivers: findings from the maximizing independence at home study, National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24479141/
- Respite Care, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/cancer/what-is-respite-care#1