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Providing Answers to the Most Common Questions About Respite Care

Respite care: a short period of rest or relief from caring for someone who depends on you. Caring for a loved one is a beautiful thing. But it is hard. You can feel like you give and give but you see no end in sight. You are a caregiver. You care. And you give everything you can. We value the work you do. Nobody cares as much for a loved one as you. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are 15.5 million friends and family members providing 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.1 There are estimates of over 65 million Americans providing care in their homes for an aging or disabled loved one who is dependant on them.2 Sometimes you need to be taken care of too. You need a short break. A period of rest so that you can recharge and be ready to keep on giving. Respite care can provide you with a few hours or a few days to do what you need to do for you. Maybe go to a doctor’s appointment or sleep uninterrupted through the night. Between 40 to 70% of caregivers will feel symptoms of depression and anxiety related to the constant emotional load of caring for an aging parent.3 Caregivers are worn down both physically and emotionally. Respite care is the answer to keeping you running at your best so you can continue to provide care in your loved ones home without having to move them into a nursing home. What is Respite Care? Having somebody else provide care to your loved one in your home is the secret to your long term success as a caregiver. Caregiving is a role that has no days off, no holidays and often little support. You will need to take the initiative to set up your own breaks. Respite care is having somebody else do the 100 things you do in a day to care for your loved one so you can have a breather. You might arrange for care to be provided in your home, temporarily at a healthcare facility or at an adult day center.4 Half of family caregivers report providing help to their loved one getting out of bed, getting to and from the toilet, help with eating, scheduling care, managing medical appointments, administering medication and completing home and meal chores. That is a full day’s work every day! How to Find Respite Care The first step in how to find respite care will often be to talk to your loved one that you are caring for. Let them know you are needing a little time away and have a discussion over when you would be away and for how long. Let your loved one know that this is a win-win situation for both of you. You will be able to continue providing loving care at home by having a break and your loved one will benefit from spending time with another kind caregiver. You will need to decide what your needs are. Will your loved one need specialized care? Do you need two hours every week or a full weekend once a year? Ask Around Once you know what time you need start asking around. Most caregivers will start by asking family members and friends to assist them. Informal caregivers can assist with a meal, stay in the home during your loved one’s nap time or have a cup of tea while you go to an appointment. Hiring a professional caregiver allows you to have the peace of mind that your loved one is being cared for by somebody with specialized health care training. Often talking to your doctor or the hospital social worker will start you on the right path to finding a professional caregiver. Finding a Well Trained Professional There are many care agencies! You will need to look around and ask about registration, licensing, credentials and whether the caregiver is trained in what you need, for example experience in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or fall prevention programs.5 Once you find two to three caregivers you are happy with, set up a time to interview each one and check their references. You will feel more confident having someone care for your loved one once you have talked with an experienced caregiver or agency. Who Respite Care is For Respite care is for both your loved one and for you. Maria Shriver, an advocate for Alzheimer’s research and care, states that many people think that being a caregiver is a negative experience or that caregivers don’t want to have this role. Shriver agrees that caregiving is a heavy physical, emotional and financial responsibility but most caregivers are giving gladly to their loved one.6 Families are choosing to care for their loved one at home because they want to give them the best they can. Respite care allows others to support the caregiver in the vital and beautiful job they are doing every day. Perfectionism continues to be one of the biggest causes of caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue. Respite programs can help share that load. Respite Care Grants Caregivers often worry about the cost of respite care. The organization Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement has joined together with Home Care Assistance to award 60 individuals respite care grants. You, the caregiver, are working the hardest. But we ask you to let us support you. Studies have shown that caregivers tend to underutilize respite service until they are at risk of burning out. Respite care provides the greatest benefit when it is set in place before you become over stressed. You don’t need to wait until you are overwhelmed by the care of your loved one. You can make the choice today to take some time to breathe so that you can continue providing that extraordinary level of care day by day. For more information on respite care grants, please go to: Sources:

About the Author(s)

Crystal Jo is a Registered Nurse who is passionate about helping older adults live happy, healthy lives at home. As a freelance writer, she enjoys educating and inspiring seniors, and those who love them, to choose a healthy life.

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