Respite care is a short-term, temporary solution for those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home. Respite care programs provide a planned short-term or temporary break for families and other unpaid caregivers that will help to support and maintain the primary caregiving relationship. Respite care also can provide a positive experience for the person receiving care.
Even though many families take great joy in providing care to their loved ones so that they can remain at home, the physical, emotional and financial consequences for the family caregiver can be overwhelming without some support such as respite. Respite care also can be a great tool to “test-drive” different senior living communities and environments as a prelude to long-term residential care.
Without respite care, not only can families suffer economically and emotionally, caregivers themselves may face serious health and social risks as a result of stress associated with continuous caregiving.
Studies show that approximately three-fifths of family caregivers ages 19-64 surveyed reported fair or poor health, one or more chronic conditions or a disability, compared with only one-third of noncaregivers. Respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and well-being by providing an opportunity to rejuvenate and relax without worrying about their loved one.
Another study showed that respite care may have the additional bonus of helping to reduce the likelihood of divorce and help sustain marriages. Caregiving is a demanding, difficult job and no one is equipped to do it alone. Seeking support and maintaining one’s own health is key to managing the caregiving years. Using respite care before you become exhausted, isolated or overwhelmed is ideal but just anticipating regular relief can become a lifesaver.
You have a choice of many types of respite care that may be available in your community. There are agencies that can provide different types of in-home respite care; assisted living communities that have residential respite care; memory care communities that provide for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory loss; and skilled nursing facilities that can provide respite care in a more medical surrounding.
So how do you choose the one that is right for your loved one? You first need to determine your needs … both yours and your loved one’s. Are you looking to take a break for a few hours? A weekend? Or would you like to get away for a longer period of time? Does your loved one need care while you recover from surgery or another medical event? Do you have a family emergency and need immediate care for your loved one?
What kind of care/assistance does your loved one need? Do they just need companionship with oversight? Or do they require assistance with the basic “activities of daily living” (bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, medications, meal preparation)? Does your loved one have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other form of memory loss? Are their needs at a higher medical level (such as feeding tubes, regular injections, IV therapy, etc.)? And don’t forget about the social aspects such as mental stimulation, exercise, transportation, activities, outings and socialization. And finally — figuring out how to pay for respite care. Do you have the resources available to cover the costs? Insurance that can help offset the costs? What about veterans benefits? State agencies?
Where to find respite care and what to look for
Home health agencies: Many home health agencies can provide you with in-home respite care from several hours to many days. One of the advantages of an agency coming to your home is that your loved one can remain at home. Be sure that the agency does complete and regular background and reference checks on its staff. Ask if there is enough staff to cover if the caregiver assigned to you gets sick or injured. Questions to ask yourself: Can I afford it? What if Mom doesn’t like them? Will she be entertained and stimulated? Will they have the assigned caregiver(s) come meet my loved one prior to the respite stay? What happens if my loved one has an emergency?
Assisted living communities: Do they have furnished apartments or do I need to bring our own furniture and linens? Is it a private or shared apartment? Do they have a minimum/maximum time frame for respite stays? What is included in the price? What is their staffing level for each shift? Do they have meal choices, activities that are mentally and physically stimulating, common areas for socialization? How will they meet the unique needs of my loved one? What happens if my loved one has an emergency?
Memory care communities: Do they have furnished apartments or do I need to bring our own furniture and linens? Is it a private or shared apartment? Do they have a minimum/maximum time frame for respite stays? What is included in the price? What is their staffing level for each shift? Do they have meal choices, activities that are mentally and physically stimulating, common areas for socialization? How will they meet the unique needs of my loved one? What happens if my loved one has an emergency? Ask if staff has had additional training on dementia and mental health. Are they a secure community? What levels of memory loss can they care for?
Skilled nursing facilities: Will my loved one have a private or shared room? Do they have a minimum/maximum time frame for respite stays? What is included in the price? What is their staffing level for each shift? Do they have meal choices, activities that are mentally and physically stimulating, common areas for socialization? What happens if my loved one has an emergency?
It is not recommended to hire a caregiver through ads, fliers, etc., without conducting a thorough background check and reference check. The other thing to be aware of is what happens if the caregiver get sick or injured? Who will provide backup care for your loved one? And is he or she someone you have checked out?
Another option, if you are looking just to take a break for a few hours or most of a day, is adult day care services. Many assisted living and memory care communities have a day program that may work for your loved one and your needs.
You also can check with senior assistance organizations such as Senior Information and Assistance for resources in helping to find the right program and community for your loved one.
(4) Spend your free time taking care of yourself and enjoying life — don’t worry.
Remember — you can’t provide your loved one with the care and attention he or she needs if you are worn out, stressed, sick or just plain depleted. Relief and revitalization are not just important for you, they benefit all involved in the caregiving process.
For more information and resource assistance, e-mail Pam Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 683-7047. Scott is the community relations director for Discovery Memory Care in Sequim.
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