Self- care for the Family Caregiver Respite Care

Monday, January 7, 2019 - 12:00

Another year has passed and the many changes in our lives whether they be; personal, business, country or just life. Whether we want to embrace it or not, change seems to be the only constant in our lives- so why fear it? 


In the festivities of bringing in the New Year, many caregivers do not look forward to rolling over of one year into the other. The celebration is very minimal for many of us- because the challenges we faced in 2018 will certainly continue into 2019. Sometimes these challenges come with very little or no, improvement in the new year and the support, help, assistance and understanding from others remains the same. As a matter of fact there is an increase in stress, anger, depression and frustration. 


Where can family caregivers get what is needed?


Well firstly I wanted to start 2019, by saluting all Family Caregivers, 2018 was a long road for many of us and the road only seems to get longer looking at a new year. But, all in all, I hear you and I understand what your challenges are. This is why I am starting the new year discussing ‘respite care,’  so that we can find the space to step back and step away, even if it is for a brief moment. This will allow us as caregivers to get the care and time we need, and also our loved one that extra special attention they need.


I would like to say a special thank you for the outpouring support for these articles. This column is not only to help others, but it’s my way of getting the challenges I am facing in caring for my own loved one out, and not keeping it all bottled in. In addition to which, helping and supporting other family caregivers is something I am very passionate about and hold very close to my heart. I thank each and every one of you, for taking the time to read the articles and reaching out to me by phone, whatsapp or email. So let’s get down to how we are going to support eachother for 2019.


Firstly, join the Caregivers Association of Trinidad and Tobago – membership is FREE.  This association has been formed for family caregivers, hired caegivers, nurses and doctors. This is a support group,  a safe place where we can come together to meet and discuss what is on our mind. To cry, to laugh, learn how to cope, and learn and be trained in the correct ways to care for our loved ones. A space where no one will be judged or accused, but a group where we will support and embrace each other in these rewarding but yet very challenging times.


Secondly, understand what is respite care?  And how to ask for respite time?


Respite care provides temporary relief to a primary caregiver from the continuous support and care of an adult who is elderly or disabled and dependent on others. Services include companionship, involvement in the person's activities of daily living, meal preparation, light housekeeping and personal hygiene tasks.


Family Caregivers apart from managing the household, the constant caring for, preparing meals, administering medicine, clean ups and putting on that happy face becomes a day in and day out challenge. Though it can be very rewarding, we as family caregivers must be mindful of the fact that we need a break, so as to avoid caregiver burnout, depression and health problems.


These are some simple steps to understand what respite plans you and your caree need:

Knowing and understanding what your needs are and, what your caree needs are.  

This is very important because the needs are very different.  Take your time and write each need down separately, so it is clear and easy to identify.



What do you need? Time off once a week?  A caregiver during the day or night? Do you need a day or night out with your spouse or children? All of the above?



What does your loved one need? Meals prepared, companionship, therapy, someone to administer the insulin? List everything big and small


Create a chart to build your needs list.  You will fill in the columns after meeting with family and friends.


Build a list of possible “Care Relievers”  these are persons who you can call on, to assist with giving you the time you need and most importantly can manage and provide the correct and suitable care for your Caree.  Break the list down.  List everyone.  You will then go through the list and fine tune or remove names after:

  • Friends 
  • Family 
  • Co-workers that you trust
  • Neighbours that you trust
  • Skype, WhatsApp Video call with family and friends overseas
  • Professional services
  • Ask CATT – Caregivers Association of Trinidad & Tobago


The Family meeting 

Contact all members of the family, siblings, adult children, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents (yes there maybe grandparents who can assist maybe in companionship role), cousins, god brother, god sister, step brother and sister. Yes folks you know we Trinis have a lot of extended family, so now is the time to call on them.  Here is where you take control of the meeting:


Explanation.  Don’t expect person to be mind-readers or understand what you need.  Be specific about what you need.  I need  someone to assist in making the lunch on Sundays.  I need someone to come on a Saturday from 4pm to 8pm so that I can go organise myself for church.  I need a break once a week on a Wednesday between 9am to 1pm.  Be specific.


Flexibility.  Now as much as you are asking for assistance.  Remember, people are also living their lives and as much as they want to help, may not always be able to at the time you need them.  So be flexible.  If you need them on a specific day at a specific time just say so, but still be flexible so that you make it easy for the person to assist.


Pause and Encourage Questions.  This is where persons will be processing what you really need, whilst determining if they can even do what you are asking, or they maybe afraid of taking on this responsibility. So you break it down even further; I need you to prepare breakfast, which is oats or I need you to administer the meds which are labelled and it is only after meals. I need assistance in doing the laundry but it is really the sheets and towels only.  


In some cases your Caree maybe using a walker.  Show the care reliever the correct way to use the walker so that they can aide and guide the caree when they are there.

Lifting the person, sometimes persons may need to be turned or moved.  Show them the correct way to lift and how they like to be propped on the bed.


Be mindful to not just ask someone for assistance and then leave. If they feel overwhelmed or anxious, they may not want to assist you again.


If there is any emergency when you are gone.  Explain what needs to be done, which hospital and ambulance service will be used.  Or if it is not anything major the doctors number.

Be Quiet, Be Still.  

Give persons time to process what you have asked for.  Remember this is a family meeting.  Group brainstorming can motivate persons who are reluctant to help.  Also there is power in numbers so, persons may join forces to lend the assistance you need.


Offer Options.  

If family members or friends start to list I have work and the kids homework is hectic during the week- no problem, ask if they can cover Friday evening or nights. Siblings who live abroad and can’t be there, can contribute money to cover a professional caregiver. An aunt or cousin from abroad, can stay for a week whilst you take a vacation. Be flexible and work with them. Remember, you need this time, so don’t be discouraged, where there is a will there is always a way.

Now every family has their own dynamics.  If you think this meeting will be stressful and you will get no progress. Contact Caregivers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) 310-2742.  For a professional caregiver mediator.


Once you have person/persons onboard.  Join the CATT – Caregivers Association of Trinidad & Tobago. Where you can get the support to build out a practical, functional and realistic list of respite care options for both you and your caree. 

Now you have the list of what respite is needed and how the caree needs to be cared for. Send the information via email, whatsapp, hard copy to your care relievers. Even persons who were reluctant or said outright no. They now have a better view of what is really being asked of them and, chances are they may now be able to assist and have put a bit more thought into the request.


Leave detailed written or typed instructions about meals, medicines, clothing, television or radio shows, favourite channels, phone numbers and emergency contacts. As much details and instructions as is humanly possible for you to leave to assist your care reliever. 


Wishing you and yours the very best for 2019.


Are you a Family Caregiver? Or Were you a Family Caregiver?  ALL are Welcomed.


Join CATT - Caregivers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (Support Group) membership is FREE, call or whatsApp - 1-868-310-2742 or email [email protected].





Monthly Support Group meeting held 2nd Saturday Every Month 11am to 1pm


Jan 12th 2019

Jul 13th 2019    

Feb 9th 2019

Aug 10th 2019

Mar 9th 2019

Sept 14th 2019

Apr 13th 2019

Oct 12th 2019

May 11th 2019

Nov 9th 2019

Jun 8th 2019

Dec 14th 2019


Asha Mungal

Asha Mungal is the sole family caregiver for her mom, whilst simultaneously being a one woman show balancing her business Care Safety Solutions Limited.  Her goal is to provide solutions for personal safety to the citizens of Trinidad & Tobago and by extension the Caribbean. She has a passion for life and believes that every moment should be lived to the fullest and, every person should never let a day go by without learning something new, no matter how small it may be.