Why Caregivers Should Use Respite Care

respite care

As a family caregiver, you devote a great deal of time and energy to making sure your elderly parent or loved one has the care they deserve. This can take many forms. You might be a long-distance caregiver who checks in on your parents often enough to spot problems as soon as they begin, and then you swing into action. Or you might be a fully hands-on caregiver for a senior who is battling a variety of health issues and needs a constant presence to keep them safe and secure.

Among the 48 million family caregivers in the nation[1], there is an incredibly wide spectrum of duties performed to keep their loved ones in the best health possible. In some cases it’s a daily check in, supplemented by the use of medical alert technology. This might include a medical alert pendant, wristband, or watch. In other cases, keeping your loved one safe at home requires you to be there with them around the clock, providing physical assistance.

No matter the level of care, rest assured that you are not alone. At least 20% of adult children are taking care of an older parent[2].

But who takes care of the caregiver? Unfortunately, help for the caregiver often falls by the wayside. It can be easy to sacrifice your own needs and wants while you take care of someone you love who needs assistance, but eventually that can take a toll in ways you don’t expect. Almost a quarter of participants in an AARP study said that caregiving has taken a heavy toll on their physical health[3].

The level of stress might be especially high for those who handle other obligations at the same time as their caregiving, such as raising their own children while taking care of an elderly parent or going to work on a full-time or part-time basis while juggling caregiving responsibilities. Caregiver burnout is a very real problem. In fact:

·         Three out of every four caregivers find that providing assistance is stressful for them.

·         Half of adult caregivers say it’s tough to balance work with their caregiving duties.

·         It’s especially tough for those who are providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

·         As a result of the caregiving stress, it’s estimated that up to 40% of caregivers suffer from depression.

These are all good reasons to look into respite care for caregivers. But unfortunately, only about 15% of caregivers reach out for this help[4]. That’s something that needs to change! Your good health – mental, physical, and emotional – matters.

What is Respite Care?

Respite care is a short-term break for family caregivers. This break might last for a few hours on an afternoon, an overnight so you can get some rest, or even for a few days or weeks while you take the time to handle other obligations and/or focus on recharging your batteries.

Respite care often becomes a necessity for those who provide care for a sick or disabled loved one. Sometimes a person will need help around the clock, especially if they suffer from a traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, or cancer. Those who have gone blind or otherwise lost the ability to use their senses to get around might also need a great deal of help as they age. This heavier burden of caregiving might be more common than you think; for instance, AARP says that 26% of family caregivers are providing assistance to a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That doesn’t include the numbers of those who are providing care to those with other advanced or chronic medical conditions.

One of the big advantages of respite care is that you can use it to take time for yourself, so that you are refreshed, recharged, and ready to come back as your best self to take care of your loved one.

What is Respite Care Like for My Loved One?

Respite care can be provided in a variety of ways. Some respite caregivers will come to your home. If your elderly parent can leave the home, an adult day care center can be a great option to provide a break during the day.

Respite care provided in the home can include a wide range of assistance. A caregiver trained in home health care might help with the basics of daily living, including bathing and dressing, eating and drinking, exercising, getting outside, taking medications on time, and moving around the home safely. These are often known as personal care providers or home health providers.

Some respite workers provide more companionship than anything else. A companion caregiver might not have the skills of a home health worker, but they can provide an incredible emotional outlet for seniors by simply listening to what they have to say and talking with them in a kind, caring manner. This might be fun for your parent, as the respite worker hasn’t heard their stories before and they don’t have as much of an emotional connection as you do. These might be volunteers from community organizations or trained staff from a home-care business.

Some respite workers can even come in to handle the chores of the home, such as doing laundry, cooking meals, or making beds and cleaning the house. It all depends on what you are looking for and the agency you select.

Skilled nursing care provides the highest level of medical expertise for respite care. These individuals have specialized training and can provide for your loved one’s medical needs.

Respite care in a group setting, such as an adult day care or community center, is led by a group of trained providers. This might include the ability to socialize with others, indulge in group meals in a cafeteria setting, watch all sorts of entertainment, play games, or even get in some gentle exercise. Being disabled, having a chronic illness, or simply being elderly can be quite isolating – respite care that happens out in the community can be a way for your senior parent to connect with new friends.

What About Respite Care from Other Family Members?

If you are fortunate to have family members nearby, asking them to volunteer to sit with your elderly parent for a while so you can run errands or simply take a nap might be a good idea. Many people are more than happy to help but they aren’t sure how. By asking them to spend a few hours with your loved one, you are providing them an opportunity to feel good about helping, giving your beloved senior someone else to talk to for a while, and giving you the chance to run errands, handle other obligations, or simply take a nap. It’s a win for everyone!

When it comes to caregiving, the division of labor among a family is often quite lopsided and might even seem unfair[5]. When family members are not on board with helping out, it might be best to seek out respite care from a professional caregiver.

If your family members are willing to provide some respite for you, make sure they are well-prepared. Choosing a personal emergency response system, or PERS device, is a good idea for peace of mind, not just for you and your parent, but for the person coming in to provide the respite care. If an emergency occurs, your respite volunteer might not know what to do. If all they have to do is press a button to get help on the way, that can help them relax into the fun of spending time with your loved one.

Other Obstacles to Respite Care

Interestingly enough, the biggest obstacle to getting respite care might be… you. Admitting that you need a break can be tough. When you provide so much care for another person, you can start to think that only you know how to best care for them. And while that might actually be true, that line of thought means that you may be dismissing your own needs in the process.

You might also feel some measure of guilt in admitting that yes, caregiving can be a burden. No matter how much you love someone, sometimes you simply need a break from them. And remember – maybe your loved one needs a break, too. Too much togetherness can spark resentment.

Other complicated emotions may come into play, such as worrying that a professional caregiver will do a better job than you will, or that the respite worker will see areas where you are “lacking” and judge you for not providing the best possible care around the clock. Though these things are quite unlikely, fears aren’t always rational.

You might also look at the job of finding respite care as something too overwhelming to take on, especially when you are already overwhelmed by caregiving. But that’s exactly why you need respite care – to help you pull back from that overwhelmed feeling and be more of yourself again.

The benefits of taking care of yourself simply cannot be overstated. The more care you give yourself, the more refreshed you will be, and that means the better care you can provide. In addition to reaching out for respite care, take the opportunity to do other good things for yourself. Make sure to eat well, exercise on a regular basis, and get plenty of sleep.

Consider making some changes to your daily routine to keep you healthier and happier, such as opting to outfit your elderly parent with a medical alert system with fall detection for peace of mind.

Tips for Finding the Best Respite Care

Here are some tips on finding the best possible respite care workers to take care of your elderly parent.

·         Ask your parent’s doctor, social worker, or other professional for referrals to great caregivers.

·         When choosing an independent provider, conduct an in-depth interview. Be very specific about what care you expect for your loved one, how often that will happen, and what payment will be offered.

·         Request personal and professional references as well as a resume with their work history. Then make a point of checking out everything by making calls and searching their old employers online.

·         Consider running a background check on your favorite candidates. This could uncover reasons not to hire them.

·         Allow your elderly parent to meet the final candidates. Get their opinion on which one they like the most, as that might be the one they get along with the best.

·         Home care agencies might be more expensive, but they make the process easier. Speak with them over the phone and ask questions – if they seem annoyed by your concerns, they aren’t the agency for you. If they are warm and welcoming, ask if you can sit down and talk with them in person to go over the options for caregiving.

·         When choosing an adult day care, visit with your loved one and tour the facility. Spend the first day with them, or at least the first few hours, while they go about the variety of activities. The idea is to gauge not only the safety of the space, but how engaging the professionals are and how your senior loved one feels about the place.

Alert1 Medical Alert Systems wishes all caregivers and their families peace and safety.