There are hundreds of thousands of loving family members whose primary responsibility every day is to take care of those who need them to survive.  They are most often elderly parents, but sometimes more extended branches of the family tree.  Knowing that meeting the needs of those who cannot care for themselves is rewarding.  But it can be exhausting.

What Caregiving Costs the Caregiver

Perhaps the greatest cost to the caregiver is emotional.  When a caregiver spends the majority of his or her time with someone who depends on them, there can be a sense of isolation.  This may lead to a sense of being overwhelmed resulting in depression, exhaustion, and anxiety.

The result of this can be two-fold; however well-intentioned the gift of caregiving may be in the beginning, ultimately resentment and fatigue can impact the mental health of the caregiver and ultimately the quality of care he or she is able to give.  Even after the need for caregiving is past, the emotional impact on caregivers can last for some time.  It manifests itself in the form of headaches and other pain, loss of appetite and sleep.

Unless checked at some point, these feelings can lead to serious health issues from caregiver burnout.  Respite Care is one important way to prevent this from occurring.  Caregivers who do not care for themselves cannot provide quality care for those in their charge.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care allows for a temporary reprieve from elder care responsibilities.  By including regular respite care into a schedule, caregivers will find themselves – and those for whom they care – to be healthier overall.

There is an added benefit to having regular respite care.  When an emergency does arise, there is a known reliable source to whom the caregiver can turn.

Sources of Respite Care

Often the challenge is not whether to get respite care, but where to get it.

  • Home Care. Home Care Agencies provide a broad range of non-medical services to help spell the caregiver.  Think in terms of personal companions who can do everything from meal preparation to laundry to pet care and transportation for shopping or medical appointments.
  • Home Health Care. As distinguished from Home Care agencies, Home Health agencies’ employees have certifications to administer medicines and execute therapies.  Both Home Care and Home Health agencies provide professional care for your loved one.  They allow the caregiver to take extended time away from their duties with the comfortable knowledge that someone competent is on the job.
  • Adult Day Care. Adult Day Care centers are places that allow seniors to be looked after while their caregivers work, run errands or simply take a break.  They are generally social environments that are safe and secure.  Visits can be for a whole day or just a few hours.

Different types of adult day care centers provide different services.  Some provide health care for those in need of medication administration or monitoring services.  Others are more social and recreational and do not offer medical services.

  • Senior Living Centers. In those situations where the regular caregiver needs to be away for several days, a short-term stay at a senior living community is an option.  The care recipient has access to the full range of services a full-time patient would have including meals, social activities, transportation services, and 24-hour staff availability including emergency call systems.

As a side benefit, day visits are a great way for seniors to preview what senior living is like.  Should the day come where the conversation turns to senior living as an option, the senior in question will have a better understanding of what is involved.

  • Friends and Family. All too often caregivers feel the burden so intensely they are reluctant to ask others in their immediate circle to spell them for a while.  Calling on friends or family members is an entirely acceptable respite alternative.  In fact, people in the caregivers circle often say “let me know if I can do anything” and it should not be treated casually.  When such an opportunity arises, having a specific request involving respite assistance should not be allowed to pass.  Even if you don’t need someone to completely take over, having them visit while you are “on duty” will relieve some of the psychic stress caregivers experience.

In sum…

If you can take a well-deserved break while your loved one receives quality care and supervision while you are away, it should be considered.  There is no magic formula to determine which type of respite care is best.  Whether it is a couple of hours or a full weekend away or just a simple phone call or personal visit while you are caretaking, respite care can save your own sanity – and maybe your life.