Your life changes substantially when you have a child. If you are one of the 14 percent of adults who has a child with disabilities, the change may seem overwhelming. Caring for a child without disabilities is often exhausting. Caring for a disabled child is not just exhausting, it is also challenging and can even be overwhelming. You feel you cannot trust the care of your child to untrained people, so calling a teenage baby-sitter to give you even a few hours of free time is not an option. Close family members may not even be able to step in and help out.

Stress with the daily physical care of your child with disabilities is coupled with extra duties. You likely have frequent appointments you have to go to where your child receives medical care and/or therapy. You may even be employed and have other children to care for. You feel stressed, but you also feel guilty that you feel stressed. At least take comfort in the knowledge that you are not the only caregiver that experiences these feelings.

It is so common for caregivers of a child with disabilities or of a disabled adult to feel stressed, it has been given a name: Caregiver Stress Syndrome. You may not even realize you are suffering in this way since you are so used to being tired and having more things to do than you can actually accomplish. But, there are some real signs you need to pay attention to that indicate you need a break. If you recognize yourself in just a few of the items on this list, you need a temporary break from your responsibility, which is really the definition for respite care.

Signs you need a respite break.

• Changes in your sleep patterns. Either getting too much or not enough sleep.

• Frequent non-specific aches and pains, including headaches.

• Frequent feelings of anger.

• Easily irritated for no definable specific reason other than you are tired and overwhelmed.

• Drinking too much alcohol or taking too many prescription drugs.

• Forgetting things, such as appointments.

• Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

• Constant feelings of exhaustion.

• Always rushing because there just simply is not enough time to do what you need to do.

• You do not want to get out of bed in the morning and face another day.

• Feelings of resentment that your life is not how you expected it to be.

• Frequent colds and illnesses, caused by not properly taking care of yourself and compromising your diet and exercise programs.

Importance of respite care.

Respite care gives you the temporary relief you need to replenish your emotional and physical health. You will find renewed energy for your job and other family members. You can choose to have respite care for your child with disabilities for a few hours or a few days. You can schedule it to occur on a regular basis, or arrange for it when you feel you really you really need it.

You can arrange for the care to be given in your own home, find a facility that offers respite care for a child with disabilities or ask a family member, friend, neighbor or member of your faith community whom you trust. There are even programs, such as the REST (respite education and support tools) program, that trains volunteers to become volunteer respite care workers.  Respite care should be viewed as a necessity, not a luxury. Your entire family will benefit as you become rested and as your own health improves.