Taking a break

We all need to take a break from whatever we are doing, even if that means taking a break from caring for someone you love. There’s no need to feel guilty or that you aren’t fulfilling your responsibilities.

Caring for someone affected by dementia can be stressful, as well as physically and emotionally tiring. It can also be socially isolating for family/whānau members if they can’t – or don’t feel they can – leave the person they are caring for.

But it’s important that anyone in a caring role can take regular breaks. That might be just a short break – to meet friends, participant in a hobby or sport, do errands or some business. Ideally they should also feel they can take a weekend away or go on holiday.

Breaks are also good for someone with dementia. It’s good for them to get out, see other people, socialise and maybe go somewhere new. It’s also good for them to get used to having other people supporting and caring for them.

How to take a break

Ask family/whānau members to step in Other family/whānau members and friends may be happy to help out by giving you a break from caring.

Often it’s just a matter of asking. Try suggesting specific ways they can help you get a break – also ask them about bringing a meal or helping with the housework or shopping to give you a break in those areas, too.

Day programmes or services

Not only do these give you both a break from each other, they provide the person with dementia with social contact and interesting activities. It gets them out into a new space and gives them experience of having others care for them.

Respite care

Respite care can be in a day programme or in a short-term residential care facility that’s funded by your local District Health Board (DHB). In some areas in-home respite is available where care is available in your own home and this gives the carer some time off.

Some people will feel quite comfortable about using respite care early on, while others will take a while to get used to the idea. However, some families say it’s good to start using regular respite care as early as possible so everyone can get used to having a break from each other.

It can be helpful to think about respite care as a partnership between yourself and the respite provider, working together to make the most of the time. Talk to the staff at respite care facilities about what type of respite care is available, and what will work best for you and the person with dementia.

Advice and support for people who provide care is available from Carers New Zealand. If you want to know more about how to take a break, talk to your doctor about suitable options or contact your local Alzheimers organisation 0800 004 001.

Booklet: Supporting a person with dementia
A guide for family/whānau and friends

This booklet gives you information and tips on helping a person with dementia with their personal care, such as washing and dressing, nutrition, sleeping and travelling, as well as communication and ideas for meaningful activities and ways you can look after yourself – which is very important, too. 

Click here to download the booklet (PDF).