In order to care for others, you have care for yourself. If you are exhausted and have nothing left to give someone else, what good will you be to your loved one? It's like the flight attendants always tell you - put your own oxygen mask on before helping your young children with theirs. If you pass out from lack of oxygen while helping someone who's helpless with theirs, your not doing either of you a favor, right?
The good news is that health care providers are recognizing the needs of caregivers now more than ever. The hospice benefit has a provision built into it just for this purpose. Respite care is one of four levels of hospice care that is intended to give caregivers with burnout or other extenuating circumstances a break. Respite care is usually carried out in a nursing home for a maximum of five days. That may not seem like much, but five days to focus on caring for yourself can do wonders when it's time to focus on caring for others.
The New York Times reported today on respite centers who are providing caregivers similar relief. Although respite is usually not covered under Medicare or private insurance for patients not on hospice, the cost of respite can be reasonable and the benefits priceless.