Seek caregiver support when facing caregiver stress
Learn to Pace Yourself as a Caregiver

If you are a caregiver, you may think you must do everything yourself. But you will be in your caregiving role for years.

Treat caregiving as though you are running a marathon. Pace yourself from the start so that you do not run too fast and burn out from your caregiver duties.

More importantly, take occasional breaks (or respite) so that you can refuel yourself for the next leg of the journey. Ask for and accept help from as many places as possible.

Caregiver Respite Time

Respite time gives you a break from your caregiving responsibilities. It can help you to relieve caregiver stress. Therefore, having respite time from your role as a caregiver is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Every caregiver needs respite time. It may be hard to think of your own needs when caring for a loved one. However, if you do not, your life will be taken over by your caregiver duties, and you will become exhausted.

Your care recipient's level of care needs (which means how dependent is he/ she on you for everyday needs) determines whether he or she can be left alone and for how long.

Respite Care Options

Here are some respite care options that can help:

  • Ask a family member or friend to stay with your care recipient for an hour or more so that you can take a break.
  • If you are worried that your family members may not know how to properly care for the care recipient, they can attend one of the Caregivers Training Grant pre-approved courses. The grant also provides a training subsidy for these courses.
  • Take your care recipient to a day care centre. This will give you a break during the day.
  • Get home care services like Senior Home Care or Eldersitter services (for a person with Dementia) to help your care recipient for a few hours per week or per month.
  • Hire a foreign domestic worker. There is a Home Caregiving Grant (HCG) that can help you offset the cost of hiring one.
  • Help your care recipient join a support group.
  • After you arrange for help, you must make an effort or discipline yourself to take time off to do something for yourself.

Caregiver Respite Zone

A respite zone is an area set aside just for you, the caregiver. This space could be your bedroom, a spare room, an office. It should be a place for you to take a break while the care recipient rests or is taken care of by someone else.

Creating Your Own Respite Care Zone

Here are some things to note while creating your caregiver respite zone:

  • Keep in mind what you want to do there, such as read, paint or write.
  • Set aside the time you will use it, such as during your care recipient's nap time or when someone takes over your caregiving duties.
  • Find a suitable space in your home, such as a spare room or a corner of your bedroom. Use a screen or a curtain for privacy if you cannot close the door.
  • Modify the space according to your needs, e.g. place a reading chair with a lamp or a headset for music. Keep whatever is necessary for your respite activity.
  • Have a place of your own in your home where you can relax. You can surf the Internet or do activities like sewing and writing to take your mind off your responsibilities.
  • You need to feel secure with your respite zone and that your things are safe and will not be used or thrown away. It is important for the people you live with to understand that this space is yours.
  • It is not selfish to set aside space and time for yourself. Without space, time and the opportunity to be with your own thoughts, your caregiving journey may be harder than it has to be. If you do not take time off and create space for yourself, what will happen to your loved one if you fall sick?

Self-Care and Activities for Caregivers

Successful caregivers do not give up their own activities.​​

There are support services (like day care centres, the Nursing Home Respite Care programme) that can give caregivers a break. 

Other family members are often happy and willing to spend time with the care recipient.

Try to get some respite on a regular basis and keep a list of the people you can go to for help.

If your friends want to know how they can ease your burden, ask them to:

  • Call and be a good listener as you may voice strong feelings
  • Offer words of appreciation for your efforts
  • Share a meal
  • Help you find useful information about community resources
  • Show genuine interest
  • Stop by to visit or send cards, letters, pictures, or humorous newspaper clippings
  • Share the workload

Other Ways To Take a Break From Caregiver Duties

Here are some other suggestions to help you take a mental or physical break:

  • Learn to say no. Setting limits can improve relationships
  • Change your mindset – do not think about what you do not have or cannot change
  • Appreciate what you have and can do
  • Find simple ways to have fun - play a board game, organise family photos, listen to music, read about an inspiring person
  • Learn ways to better manage your time, e.g., make a to-do list (include things that you enjoy)
  • Knowledge is empowering. Get information about your care recipient's condition
  • Limit coffee and caffeine intake
  • Make sure you have a support system
  • Share your feelings with someone
  • Keep a journal – write down three new things you are grateful for every day
  • Memorise an inspiring poem
  • Pick up meditation, or do breathing exercises when you are stressed.​

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