I am honored to have been asked once again to be a guest blogger for Come Roll With Me. With Summer in full swing, I thought vacationing as a caregiver would be the perfect topic. Vacations are a precious commodity for caregivers. For some, they are unreachable fantasies. Finding adequate and qualified respite workers is a difficult and sometimes impossible task. However, for many finances are the major obstacle. Caregiving is financially draining. As a single mom and primary caregiver for an adult disabled son, traditional vacations are just not an option for me. Recently I stumbled upon a solution for the financial and respite challenges of vacations…House Sitting!
My younger sister, Ginia, recently began working in the town I reside. We have been meeting each other weekly for lunch. Ginia is a mom of a very active 6 year old, a wife and a career woman. Our conversations give me a glimpse into her life and gives her a glimpse into mine. Our latest lunch included conversations about her upcoming vacation. It also included her offer to come stay at her house for a few days while she and her family were gone. As I could see the exhaustion in her eyes, she could see it in mine.
The Dome Home aka Bubble House
I glanced at my schedule and discovered I could get away for 2.5 days! Ginia’s house is about an hour away and has always been a bit of paradise for me. Mostly due to the fact that she, her husband and my nephew live there and my time with them is so very precious. As I drive down their winding driveway I feel all my stresses fade away for the moment. Ginia lives in the middle of nowhere. The land is beautiful and filled with animals, domesticated and wild. Ginia’s husband spent several years building and perfecting an incredible dome home, the locals refer to it as “the bubble house”. Additionally, this summer they added a pool!
The first night as I soaked in the humongous tub, I was reflecting on so many things. Mostly how my life has changed. There was a time I traveled and vacationed. When Hunter was younger, it was easier. He was smaller and I was able to physically manage him on the road. When he was a child, finding a sitter was not an impossible task. Today, caregivers are harder to arrange. I do not feel comfortable being too far away, because if a caregiver falls through, his well being is in jeopardy. Primary caregiving has also limited my financial resources. Gone are the days when I can afford to pay for respite care AND a vacation. This is not a pity party, it is simply my reality.
There are times I struggle with feeling trapped. Times I wish that the duties and responsibilities were shared with another. However, I have come to find acceptance. This is my life now, my new normal. Acceptance has brought about a bit of creativity. I find ways to escape. My sister opened a door to a whole new way to vacation as a caregiver, house sitting.
Change of Scenery
House sitting can provide a change of scenery. You most likely will not be house sitting in a beachfront mansion, but any change of scenery can reduce stress. House sitting provides a new town to explore, new restaurants and new people to meet. If you chose to stay close to home, even the new decor can be enjoyable. My sister has a beautiful home with a large soaking tub and a calming silence, that was enough for me!
I spent a great deal of time on one of their screened in porches. In the morning, I sat in peace listening to the birds and an occasional rooster crow. I sat, staring off into the woods thinking about nothing except the coffee in my hand. At night I returned to the porch to listen to the frogs croaking and the wind rustling through the trees.
Gift from my sister
Guiltless Pleasures of Housesitting
Caregivers lives are powered by guilt. We feel guilty for just about everything. Caregivers are typically spread so thin and struggle to gain the energy to complete all responsibilities sufficiently. I struggle with guilt…I could be a better mom, pet owner, friend, daughter, sister…the list goes on and on. The times I binge watch my favorite show is usually followed by guilt for not getting things checked off my to-do list.
One of the first things I did while house sitting was fill up the soaking tub, using the mustard detox bath powder my sister left for me. I poured myself a glass of wine and laid in the tub. It was hard to just “be” initially, my mind continued to race as it does at home. However, soon I found myself drifting in and out of awareness. My first tub session was 90 minutes. The next day I found myself laying in the tub filled with a ridiculous amount of bubbles with a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn. I watched an entire movie! I made a point of soaking in that tub 3 times during my house sitting venture. One thing that was missing…the guilt.
The responsibility of caregiving can turn a person into a joykill. Letting loose is a thing of the past for me. The schedule does not allow for hangovers and sleeping in. As time goes by, the silliness I once possessed disappeared. I have to admit, I have lost “my fun”.
As I mentioned, Ginia and her husband added a pool to their yard. At first I “acted my age” and floated in the pool on a watermelon raft. It was incredibly relaxing. I then decided to switch to the Swan Float. My first attempt was an epic failure. The next nineteen attempts were also failures. As I slipped and fell head first into the pool over and over again, I found myself laughing out loud.
My only witnesses were the chickens and the barn cats and they don’t own cell phones or cameras so I was safe from viral humilation. I did finally succeed and raised my arms into the air in victory. It felt so freeing not acting like a 51 year old with a mountain of responsibility! I did return to the watermelon raft, but this time I sang loudly and out of tune to my favorite Pandora station. I found my fun again.
Caregiving can be very isolating. You find your world getting smaller and smaller. Caregivers make plans with good intentions. However, things come up frequently and cancellations occur often. As a result, friendships fade. Despite this fact, there are times caregivers just want total solitude.
House sitting gives caregivers the option to have that peaceful solitude, socialization or a mixture of both. I opted for a mixture of both. The first 2 days I appreciated the complete solitude. I did exactly what I wanted to do when I wanted to it. This is such an important part of a caregiver’s respite. My schedule is never completely my own. Not to say I don’t get out and get to socialize, I do. However, if another caregiver cancels for whatever the reason, I have to be able to cover. Basically, most caregivers are on call 24/7. My days off are usually a mixture of catching up on my own errands and household duties. Additionally, I try to connect with friends during this time. It is never enough time.
My last night and morning, my older sister and niece came to swim and BBQ. We had the best visit! My older sister is also spread thin, so our visit was laid back and restful. We spent most of our night on the screened in porch, just talking and laughing. House sitting allows the caregiver to have control over the solitude and socialization opportunities of their stay.
One of the biggest benefits of my stay was sleep. I average about 4 hours of sleep a night. Lately, I find myself dozing off at the computer or while watching a TV show. Thank goodness for DVR or I would miss half of the shows I enjoy! One time, I dozed off at an exceptionally long red light. Sleep deprivation is a serious and common challenge for caregivers. Personally, I have to sleep with my phone on because I have to be reachable at all times. As a result, I sleep lightly due to the nagging fear of not hearing my phone.
My first night house sitting, I slept 7 hours! It was heaven! I woke up feeling well rested. However, that did not stop me from taking a cat nap on the raft in the pool and another nap on the porch! My second night’s sleep exceeded 8 hours. Honestly, I have the opportunity to sleep at home. However, I am guilty of always trying to get that “one more thing” done. A change of environment removed all of those “one more things” and I was able to sleep peacefully!
House Sitting: Budget Friendly
House Sitting for my sister was budget friendly, as it was basically a free get away! I was able to work it into my already scheduled days off, so there was no income loss. I brought my own food and needed peaceful solitude more than sightseeing. This allowed me to splurge a bit on wine!
Some house sitting jobs are income generating! Basically, you get paid for taking a break from your caregiving duties. Finding paid house sitting jobs can be a nice way to take a break without worrying about losing needed income. Websites like housesitter.com can help connect you with people looking for house sitters.
I can’t effectively express how much I needed this break. My Fitbit monitors my heart rate and I observed a significant drop in my resting heart rate. I returned feeling well rested and ready to face my chaotic life again! This was definitely a win-win situation. My sister and husband could enjoy their vacation thoroughly and I could get the respite I so desperately needed and could afford.
If you know a caregiver who needs a break, consider them when looking for a house sitter. If you are a caregiver, let your vacationing friends and family know when you are available for house sitting duties! Respite breaks are so essential for caregiver and client health!
About Guest Blogger
Sandi Kelch, is the mother and primary caregiver for Hunter, the author and owner of this blog. When not “rollin'” with Hunter, she is caring for her small zoo of rescue pets. Sandi also enjoys hiking and photography.
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