Respite Care

Respite care by definition provides temporary relief for a primary care-partner, so they can have a break from care demands. This “time off” enables the primary care-partner to recharge, take care of their own medical needs, socialize or just relax. Most often, the care-partner is a spouse.Respite care needed

It is common for anyone who takes care of a chronically ill loved one to have feelings of depression, worry, anxiety, or anger. Often their own health is adversely affected. These are all signs of “caregiver stress”.  In fact, the medical community more and more refers to it at “caregiver syndrome” due the many signs and symptoms care-partners experience.

Why is Respite Critically Important?

According to the much quoted University of Pittsburgh study, (December 1999), older caregivers are at a 63% risk of passing than non-caregivers in the same age group. And, more recent studies share very similar findings. Roughly 6 in 10 older caregivers die before the ill person they are caring for.  So, constantly providing care has a very negative effect on one’s health.

Chemical markers in blood tests show increase with stress.  Because depression and a compromised immune system are serious conditions, respite care matters. Continuous stress leads to lower energy, sleep loss and a poor diet. All of this adversely affects one’s health. Does your physician ever ask about your stress levels? Have you told your doctor you are a primary care-partner? Has he/she offered practical ideas for respite or even the need for regular respite care?

Tips for Respite Care

~Take a closer look at the times of day you are providing actual care vs. keeping an eye on the person, more of a minder or sitter.

~Build in respite time which benefits you the most, not necessarily the person you are caring for. When are your appointments, or dates with friends?

~Consider what are your short term and longer term needs.

~Learn about your Long Term Care policy if you have one and discuss best ways to use it.

~Speak to other family members and friends. See what they are willing and able to contribute to give you respite time. It can be time, emotional support, and financial help for hiring help.

~Seek out volunteers from your place of worship and community organizations.

~Veterans and their spouses may be eligible for Aid & Attendance through the Veterans Administration.

~Learn more about technological gadgets which can be used for monitoring and safety.

~Join a Caregiver Support Group

~Become a member of an organization for a specific disease or condition – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, M.S., Cancer etc.-most have helplines, newsletters, groups.

~Become acquainted with community services like Day Care programs.

~Look into hiring a caregiver or aide – preferably from a licensed company.

~Explore Assisted Living communities in your area which accept short term (2-3 weeks) respite stays.

~When appropriate, consult with your local Hospice for their services.

Things to Consider

No one will take care of your loved one the way you do. That is all right. Because sometimes “good enough” is good enough. Having another person provide care means you do have to give up some control, and that is ok. Asking for help is a smart thing to do, not a weakness. Both you and your loved one will be better off as stress is reduced.

Realistically look at what you can and cannot do, and for how long. Be honest on the toll being a primary care-partner is taking on your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Reach out to people, organizations and companies which can help.