Time Out for Patient Families and Caregivers

Time Out

Living with a chronic health condition can be exhausting for patients, their parents / carers and all members of the immediate family sharing the journey daily.

Daily tasks around monitoring and managing patient health at home, health appointments and hospital visits, collecting medicines, and generally running the daily household can be daunting. Add in hospital admissions, juggling visiting the patient and caring for family at home, and the stress levels increase substantially.

Working parents and Adult Patients know all too well the further complications of meeting employee responsibilities and work stress, on top of an already busy family life, seemingly centred around illness and medical issues. The cumulative stress for the whole household can be completely overwhelming.

Added to this, in the last year we have all experienced the unexpected stress of Covid-19 and a year of lockdowns and anxiety dealing with new threats and changes around us.

It is easy to keep soldiering on when times get tough, but it is important to have regular breaks to refresh and replenish your energy levels. What these breaks look like can be as individual as you.

Make ‘Me’ Time a Priority – Each day try and plan for each member of the family to have some ‘me’ time. A few minutes just for yourself can make all the difference. Think about what activities give you pleasure and plan these into your day – it might be as simple as an hour to curl up with a coffee and a good book, or time working in the garden. Listening to music with your headphones shutting out the world, going for a run or taking a luxurious bubble bath. Each family member will have some personal hobby or interest that might make all the difference allowing them to relax from the stresses of the day. Take time to think these through and if need be, make a note of these short breaks on the family calendar to make sure they get planned into the day.

Regular Outings – Being at home for long periods can be confining. Only getting out for hospital visits or shopping chores does not give anyone a real break in routine. Look around your community for ideas of interest groups or things to do as a family that might give you a break away from the household once or twice a week. If you google ‘free events’ in your area, or check out your local library, there will be ideas for free family events you can join in with on the tightest budget. Explore local walks, playgrounds and even tourist attractions nearby that you might easily overlook when you are rushing around in the day to day busyness. Joining a new interest group can be freeing – learning a new skill or taking time to revisit a previous favourite hobby that has been long forgotten. Think about what might appeal to you. If you are alone for long periods – maybe a coffee group or regular chat with friends or neighbours might make all the difference. Offer to help in the local charity shop or local school or community group; helping others can help to put your own burdens in perspective and gives a sense of community and sharing.

Family Breaks – Breaks away from home are a wonderful opportunity to give the whole family time to refresh and heal in a different environment. The planning and anticipation of even the shortest breaks away can be fun and give a needed sense of relief well ahead of the actual holiday. Making memories together is important for all families.

You do not have to travel overseas or spend a lot of money on a holiday; in New Zealand, the best holidays are often the simplest, heading for the beach, camping or to a family Bach. If you have friends and family living in other towns – suggest a house swop for a week to each get a change of scenery.

The IDFNZ holiday homes are available to member families as an affordable option – we encourage you to plan- ahead, to use these and aim to explore each of them as you are able.

Carer Breaks – If you are the main caregiver remember your own health is important and it is crucial that you get time out daily and periodically as needed. Monitor yourself and seek help if you feel you are not getting enough alone time; talk to your family or close friends; speak to your General practitioner IDFNZ support staff for more information if you are feeling trapped or exhausted.