**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 3, No. 4 April 2001
Caregiving for someone with a disability or mental illness can be many things: rewarding, challenging, uplifting, exhausting, nourishing, draining. Most of all, caregiving often demands a kind of intensity in life that calls for periods of respite to maintain balance. That is the subject for this month’s Companion Resources Newsletter.
Parents of a disabled child are often uneasy about leaving that child in the care of others. Yet, in order to sustain the marriage and the ability of both partners to continue quality caregiving, respite time is essential.
Fortunately, there are programs in most places in the United States that allow caregivers to take time off for refreshment and rejuvenation and provide funding for substitute caregivers. This help may permit something as simple as a few hours to sit and talk away from home at the local coffee shop. Or it may involve a full-fledged vacation get-away, perhaps even a “second honeymoon.” But finding substitute caregivers is only half of the struggle.
For persons like my wife and myself who, in addition to caring for our own son, have volunteered to care for others, the provision of respite time is also vital. It is a time when we can take a break from the constant need to eat, sleep, and breathe our work. It is a time to put cares on the shelf and do something that connects with some other part of our lives besides just caregiving. It is a time to do some things just for fun and relaxation. But we need a place to be apart from the normal routine.
We are blessed to live in an area with a number of nice bed and breakfast facilities. Some of these homes have offered us as caregivers a weekend stay “on the house.” It allows us to get away from our work setting without having to go far away or spend a lot of money on a hotel. Perhaps this is a model that others would pick up. Particularly in the off-season, there are often rooms available. We have found that even older couples who don’t have a formal bed and breakfast have offered their spare bedroom and bath once used by their children who have now grown and left home.
This is just one way in which persons with extra resources can share with families that have a member with a disability. Other ways are limited only by our imagination. The impetus, however, will almost always come from the supportive friend. The caregiver has little time to come up with ways to find respite. It is hard enough to find the respite caregivers to make those times away possible.
So this is simply an encouragement to offer and to ask. The breath of fresh air that you provide could save a marriage, help prevent abuse, and lead to greater wholeness for the whole family system.
Taking a break is essential. Let us work together as communities to ensure that parents and other caregivers not only have substitute caregivers, but places and people that welcome and provide the kind of hospitality that renews wholeness and hope.
Blessings to all!
Paul D. Leichty
“People Using Technology Building Community”