Caregiver Respite

Caregiver respite is needed because family caregivers cannot sustain their efforts without breaks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) there are over 40 million family/friend caregivers of Americans sixty-five and older. Nine out of ten provide care for an elder relative. Most do it without pay. respite careCaregiving often affects the caregiver’s employment and income. Caregivers do many things. They offer companionship, decision-making, running errands, financial issues, resolving disputes with insurance, medical providers, residential issues or repairs, and hands-on care. The emotional toll from stress is considerable. The physical demands of bathing, dressing, continence and lifting a loved one and their equipment are exhausting. Respite is a must!

Not all Caregiving is Local

Because the Boomers have yet to enter their eighties in significant numbers, we know the tsunami of caregiving needs will explode in the coming decade and beyond. So, if you are not a caregiver presently, odds are high that you will become one. When we think about caregivers, we are usually identifying the local family member or friend. Indeed, they are usually the caregiver as they need to be nearby to visit and perform household tasks. But, there are roles for out of town caregivers. Technology makes their role easier.  For instance online banking and shopping/delivery are accomplished from anywhere. Facetime and Skype let out-of-towners to see and talk with aging loved ones. These things alone, when done by someone other than the primary caregiver give some respite and relief. It frees up more time for leisure or managing their own life.

The biggest contribution to the local caregiver is support. This is emotional and can be financial also. Out of town family and friends can give the primary caregiver respite time off by making planned visits with caregiving being the main purpose. Understand the nature of the need. It is either physical, cognitive or a combination of both. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Keep to routines. When you, as a secondary caregiver feel you can  improve the situation, broach the subject with compassion. Remember you are filling in and do not have the ongoing responsibility the primary caregiver has.

Practical Tips for Stepping Up

Don’t wait till your relative or friend is overwhelmed and at a breaking point. Devise a plan together on what and when you are available to assist withto give the caregiver respite. Make concrete offers of what you can do rather than open ended offers. When you are able to go to a doctor appointments, cook a meal, do grocery shopping or a load of laundry, say so.

Your time and emotional support are invaluable. Paying for some services is tangible and valuable too. When a family member or friend is in the position to pay for a cleaning person, gardener, medication, home repair, groceries, a home health aide a great weight is lifted from the elder and the primary caregiver.  Keep in mind, money is touchy issue. When there is an ongoing arrangement, consider formalizing a legal contract.  Some parents refuse to take money from their children so you have to be a little inventive. Therapeutic fibbing comes into play in these types of situations. A typical fib of this type is that it a community service or senior benefits they are receiving.

Treating the primary caregiver to time off, while providing for care to be given is a true act of generosity. Be the caregiver, arrange for one or hire a caregiver, allowing the primary one time recharge.