Give Me a Break! Respite Care
By Kathleen Hill
Let me dispel the notion that respite care — giving a family caregiver a breather by letting someone else (a professional, family member or friend) temporarily take care of your loved one—is a luxury.
Not even sort of. There’s a reason the theme for National Caregiving Month is respite care. It is a key concept. For starters, it gives you, the caregiver, a chance to recharge so that you stay sane and don’t burnout (maybe just sizzle). And, as wonderful as you may be, a new face and experience can be a great change for your loved one.
Think of it this way: it’s no different than anyone who does the same-old, whatever it is, day after day and then gets to go on vacation. It’s a respite from routine. “Vacation” doesn’t have to be a trip to Tuscany (you wish!) or even an overnight away; just a few hours to yourself for whatever YOU want or need to do constitutes a break and can provide benefits.
Another myth is that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Rather, it is proactive and healthy. On the other hand, the mental and physical fallout from being a family caregiver is well documented.
How Respite Care Works
If your loved one lives with you, respite care could be at your house. There are other equally viable options: a few days for your loved one in an outside facility such as assisted living or a nursing home, or adult day care.
Best advice: Get those siblings and relatives who say, “If there’s anything I can do,” or who have no concept of what you do all day—that little job of caregiving-- to spell you for a weekend. It may be mind-blowing, but at the very least, they will “get” what it’s like to be a caregiver.
They might not know how to help and feel good about being asked. It’s possible you haven’t asked. (Asking for help effectively is a blog post for another day.)
I recently needed to speak with a daughter caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s for a story I was writing. I could practically hear the exhaustion in her email. Her mother was dependent on her for everything and the daughter had to quit her job to care for her. She was so consumed with her role that she told me that she wanted to talk to me on the phone but had absolutely no time. Instead, she answered my questions via email in the middle of the night. Talk about a prime candidate for respite care!
To learn about the benefits and other nitty-gritty, including types of respite, ways to vet services, eligibility through Medicare and Medicaid, and state and local resources, check out the information below. Or, better yet, if your siblings or other family members can’t get away (young kids, grandkids, a spouse, work, distance, money), hand them this list and have them do the research.
6 Great Respite Care Resources:
1. Elder Locator - www.eldercare.gov
2. ARCH National Respite Network and Research Center - www.archrespite.org
3. AARP: How to Develop a Respite Plan - www.aarp.org
4. Alzheimer’s Association - www.alz.org
5. National Adult Day Services Association - www.nadsa.org
6. U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs - www.va.gov/geriatrics