Respite Care: a Vacation for the Overburdened Caregiver
Caregivers can use respite services to help themselves avoid becoming exhausted and overwhelmed by their most difficult task.
If you speak with any family caregiver you will quickly learn how hard it can be to care for a loved one full-time. Whether you’re caring for a spirited but wheelchair–bound 90 year-old parent or a spouse with mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease, the role is consistently difficult.
According to the Center for Disease Control caregivers often pay a high toll for their labor of love:
- 35% of caregivers have difficulty finding time for themselves.
- 29% experience emotional and physical stress from their role.
- 54% said their health has gotten worse due to caregiving, and has affected their ability to give care.
- 29% have difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities.
Is it any wonder that sometimes they just need a break?
How Respite Care Helps Families
Many caregivers aren’t aware that assisted living communities offer short-term overnight stays for seniors who need assistance with daily living. This service, called respite care, allows family caregivers to travel, run errands or just have some much needed alone-time without worrying about their older loved ones’ well-being.
Caregivers often use the time that respite care gives them to take a “caregiver vacation” that helps them avoid becoming burned out. Whether it’s a resort getaway or a low frills “stay-cation”, these breaks can be immensely refreshing. The National Respite Network recommends that caregivers consider respite before they become overly stressed or tired, “To be most effective, you should use respite services much earlier than you think you will need them. Respite will be most helpful if you use it before you become exhausted, isolated or overwhelmed by your responsibilities.”
For example, Gail Bishop who used respite services for her mother at Benton House, a community in the Atlanta area said, “Respite benefits me a great deal. I wouldn’t be able to go out of town without it. I don’t have any family who live near me so I need someone to care for Mom.”
In addition to providing worn out loved ones a “caregiver vacation,” respite can serve a number of other purposes. It’s often a godsend for families when:
- The primary caregiver falls ill
- Urgent business or family travel is required
- There is extreme weather
For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many caregivers used respite care to ensure their loved ones were well cared for and in a stable environment. Another reason to research respite care options in advance is so that it is easily accessibly in unexpected scenarios like this.
Additionally, families and seniors can use respite services as an opportunity to try communities they are considering without making a long-term commitment. Respite stays can help them identify communities that might be a good fit for their loved one if assisted living becomes necessary down the road.
Study Confirms That Respite is Underutilized
According to a study by the National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP, only 12% of family caregivers ever take advantage of respite care services. This is an unfortunate statistic considering the strain of caregiving. One factor may be that some family caregivers are reluctant to admit that they could use a break. California State University San Bernardino published a helpful questionnaire for family caregivers to help them assess their needs for respite care.
How to Arrange Respite Care
Arranging respite care for a loved one does takes some preparation, but providers strive to make the process as smooth as possible. Julia Banks, Regional Director of Community Relations for Principal Senior Living says that Principal communities “provide a package to the family with a checklist, and we will assist to get any needed medical information… This information is generally easy to obtain and we can get someone in the community for an overnight stay very quickly.”
It’s ideal for families to contact the community at least one week before the respite stay, but in emergency circumstances respite can be setup on the same day assuming the community has availability. Julia Banks said, “We often do emergency move-ins from local hospitals and rehabs all in the same day.”
A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors have extensive knowledge of respite providers in the areas they serve, and they can provide free personal guidance to families who are researching respite care.
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