Respite time is a Gift to parents

Respite TimeRespite time allows us to be better caregivers. Most of us see ourselves the way we would like to be. Our older aging parents have likely been married for sixty years or so and should one of them, mother or father become ill or incapacitated, the other spouse becomes the “Primary Caregiver“.  At some point, they will need respite time for themselves.

It is a job no one would take on willingly. No pay, no benefits, no time off, physically and emotionally taxing. The stress and anxiety are ever present especially with Alzheimer and dementia care. Social activity becomes more limited and so forth. Still, many devoted couples continue to care for a beloved spouse by themselves. If your senior parent is already in their 80s or 90s, how realistic is it to expect them to be able to manage their own care, household chores, care for their spouse without becoming exhausted and run down? If one parent is helping to bathe and dress, transfer the other, than risks of falls and other physical problems may ensue. Sure Mom can take care of Dad or vice versa, but how long can being the Primary Caregiver role be sustained? Statistically, 6 in 10 primary caregivers die before the spouse they are caring for, The Research shows that it isn’t sustainable.  The Spousal Caregiver needs Respite time.

It is up to someone who the caregiver spouse trusts, to discuss a new plan for respite time. Even a few hours a day or week can make a positive impact on the primary caregiver. Either the adult sons and daughters, a financial person or most likely the primary doctor will have the best chance of convincing the primary caregiving spouse to share some of the care or responsibilities. Allowing for a hired aide or assistant to just help with companion care, laundry and meal preparation can take some of the physical load off of the elderly parent.

Options to help the caregiving spouse include:

  • Hiring a companion or aide.
  • Hiring a Housekeeper.
  • Modify home with safety equipment. — Gait belt, grab bars, bath chair, lightweight wheelchair….
  • Having friends or relatives provide greater support for caregiving spouse.
  • Use Long Term Care Insurance.
  • Get into a Day Care or Senior Program.
  • Attend Caregiver Support Groups.
  • Get individual counseling for depression or anxiety – covered by Medicare.

Remember, if your mother is caring for your father or the other way around, safety issues and health issues are real. Sure they can manage, but not ongoing, there is a cumulative, negative effect and then you will have BOTH parents to care for.