Seven Signs a Caregiver Needs Respite

Seven Signs a Caregiver Needs Respite

Trish Hughes Kreis

By Trish Hughes Kreis for Assisted Living Directory

Caregiving can be tough work. That is not to say that we cannot or would not do it but it is important to acknowledge the truth: caregiving is exhausting, tiring, repetitive and stressful. Caregivers willingly take on unpleasant tasks while also shouldering the responsibility of life and death decisions and do so day in and day out.

Our companion video for this post, Trish talks about Recognizing the Need For Respite Care:

It is okay to say that sometimes we need a break.

How can we even recognize we need a break though? Caregivers can be so focused on the next task, doctor appointment or medication to fill that we forget to check in with ourselves to see how we are doing. Caregivers can be the last ones to know when they need to find respite so they can recharge and regroup.

A Caregiver Needs Respite

What are the signs a caregiver can watch for to determine they need to take a break? How do you know when it is time for respite?  Caregivers might need to find or create respite if any of the following seven signs are apparent. (Don’t worry – the next article will cover how to find or create that much needed respite.)


  1. Impatience. Caregivers generally have a great deal of patience. We have to wait patiently for doctors who are running late, test results which seem to take forever to process and pharmacies to get insurance approval and fill medications. Not to mention, our carees can be on a different speed than us: we might want to run around accomplishing a great many tasks but the caree is slowly brushing their teeth or having difficulty dressing. We have to be patient during all of it. When our patience wears thin and we are finding ourselves frustrated that it is taking two hours to eat a meal, it might be time for a break.
  2. Irritability. Caregivers can happily have the same conversations with their carees over and over again. Until they absolutely can’t. Until the repetition becomes maddening and the caregiver snaps at their loved one. Caregivers do not want to be irritable or to be short with their caree but it can happen. Especially when the caregiver needs a little respite.
  3. Mistakes. We caregivers don’t make mistakes! We are meticulous at counting and sorting medications; we are organized and know when we need to reorder incontinent supplies; we juggle doctor appointments, lab work and sometimes a full or part-time job. When a caregiver makes a medication mistake or runs out of supplies or mixes up appointments – that is a red flag. We need to pay attention to that red flag and realize we need to take a break and create some respite for ourselves.
  4. Illness. When the caregiver gets sick it is a sure sign respite is needed. In addition, it is critical for the caregiver to arrange for respite if the caregiver is in need of treatment of a serious illness or injury or surgery for themselves.
  5. Depression. While caregivers would love to believe that our hard work and dedication will be fulfilling and life-affirming and an extraordinary positive experience, the reality is that depression very well may present itself instead. Whether it is the grief of seeing a loved one experience a decline or a growing resentment because the caregiver feels their life is on hold, depression can set in. Taking a respite is essential in this situation. (Keep in mind that with a serious, prolonged depression, more help than respite may be needed.)
  6. Loneliness. As a caregiver, has it been a while since you talked to anyone about anything other than incontinence, care facilities, medical conditions or medication? Have you been able to go to dinner with your spouse – just you and your spouse? If you haven’t seen the sunshine or another person in a while it might be time for respite.
  7. “Me” time. Caregivers can see me time as a luxury. Something they will get only before or after caregiving. Time for reading a book, writing, painting or watching movies can seem to caregivers more out of reach than catching sight of a unicorn. When a caregiver cannot remember the last time they spent time doing what they wanted to do – just for them – it is time to create or find some respite.


The idea of respite seems elusive and the thought of organizing a respite seems to be more trouble than it is worth but our next article will help you find ways to create a mini “respite” in your home as well as provide tips to finding more lengthy respite care. It may seem like another task on a very long to-do list but it will be well worth the effort.


Everyone – caregivers included – deserve a little break.

Photo by B. Morales