Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 2:20 am | Overcast 57º

Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Rona Barrett: Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s Over the Brink I Go — Caregivers Need Respite, Too

I am no doctor (don’t have the patients), but allow me to play one in this column.

So, tell Dr. Rona how you’re feeling. Exhausted? No time to rest? Working full-time? How about life changes? Caregiving your elderly parent in your spare time? Bingo!

The average “spare time” we 60-plus caregivers spend caring for our senior loved ones is 25 to 35 hours a week.

And you’re telling Dr. Rona that YOU are the one who has it under control? Caught up in the whole I-can-tough-it-out-and-handle-it-for-better-or-worse mentality?

Well, let Dr. Rona give you a dose of reality: Ignoring the stressors of caregiving makes us two to three times more likely to experience depression and debilitating health risks.

Just like the seven dwarves who followed Snow White around, these seven warning signs soon will sneak up and have you whistling, “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s over the brink I go … .” They are guilt, resentment, anger, worry, loneliness, anticipatory grief and — before you disagree with me — defensiveness.

The good news is there are ways to prevent these caregiver stressors.

The bad news is that most dedicated, unselfish, sacrificing caregivers like you refuse to do anything about it — until it’s too late.

Schools have recesses. Workplaces have vacations. Athletes have down time. Caregivers need replenishment time.

So, let’s have YOU and Dr. Rona talk about YOU caring for YOU the caregiver. Here is my personal prescription I’m writing for YOU:

Reach out and establish a network of neighbors, friends and family members to come into your home so you can leave for a few hours — on a regular basis — of respite care that will allow you to recharge, refresh, regroup and, as the Caregiver Action Network tells us, "… remember there is life beyond caregiving."

If that’s not possible, there a few good local places to seek out volunteers and professionals who provide caregiver respite care: Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care and the Caregiver Coalition of Santa Barbara.

Also consider a local day center facility. Some are nonprofits. Others are for-pay or offer subsidies.

Find a support group or class to take through local hospitals, the Area Agency on Aging or websites like the California Department of Aging. Sponsored locally by the Alzheimer's Association, The Savvy Caregiver is a four-week program for family and non-professional caregivers.

But at the very least, doctor yourself with a preventive mental vacation — a 10- to 20-minute daily getaway.

Book yourself time to read.

Work out time for exercise.

Dig a hobby — like gardening. 

Get yourself into hot water — take a bath.

Get in-talk-sicated — call a friend.

Take a minute ­and listen to your favorite music.

Can you prognosticate the hardest part of what I’m prescribing? Committing to it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three caregivers refuse to make respite time for themselves. Is it a surprise then that half of them said their health had worsened and affected their ability to give care?

So please follow these remedies. Dr. Rona’s orders. They are a necessity, not a luxury.

Until the next time ... keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.


Special Reports

Heroin Rising
<p>Lizette Correa shares a moment with her 9-month-old daughter, Layla, outside their Goleta home. Correa is about to graduate from Project Recovery, a program of the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and is determined to overcome her heroin addiction — for herself and for her daughter. “I look at her and I think ‘I need to be here for her and I need to show her an example, I don’t want her to see me and learn about drugs’,” she says.</p>

In Struggle to Get Clean, and Stay That Way, Young Mother Battles Heroin Addiction

Santa Barbara County sounds alarm as opiate drug use escalates, spreads into mainstream population
Safety Net Series
<p>Charles Condelos, a retired banker, regularly goes to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics for his primary care and to renew his prescription for back pain medication. He says Dr. Charles Fenzi, who was treating him that day at the Westside Clinic, and Dr. Susan Lawton are some of the best people he’s ever met.</p>

Safety Net: Patchwork of Clinics Struggles to Keep Santa Barbara County Healthy

Clinics that take all comers a lifeline for low-income patients, with new health-care law about to feed even more into overburdened system. First in a series
Prescription for Abuse
<p>American Medical Response emergency medical technicians arrive at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with little time to spare for victims of prescription drug overdoses.</p>

Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

Evidence of addiction shows an alarming escalation, Noozhawk finds in Prescription for Abuse special report
Mental Health
<p>Rich Detty and his late wife knew something was wrong with their son, Cliff, but were repeatedly stymied in their attempts to get him help from the mental health system. Cliff Detty, 46, died in April while in restraints at Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility.</p>

While Son Struggled with Mental Illness, Father Fought His Own Battle

Cliff Detty's death reveals scope, limitations of seemingly impenetrable mental health system. First in a series