According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, over 44 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or over. If you’re not one of those 44 million, you probably know someone who is. Which means you, or someone you know, has a lot to gain from respite care.
Who Needs Respite Care?
The idea behind respite care is to give caregivers a short-term break from being on call 24/7. How short-term? That depends on the caregiver’s individual needs. Maybe you need to know that you have one day a week – or even just an afternoon – to make appointments, run errands or just go to the spa or play racquetball with the guys. Caregivers with young children might want a regular time when their kids can have friends over without worrying that they’re making too much noise. There might be an out-of-town event, like a wedding, that the family wants to attend.
How It Works
Respite care can be provided at home, in a senior residential facility, or in an adult care center.
The truth is that anyone who is capable of tending to your loved one’s needs can provide respite care. It might be another family member who moves in and takes over for a few days, or takes your loved one out on a weekly basis. This works as long as all family members are on board as to what your loved one’s needs and limitations are.
Often there are no family members, or none who live in close enough proximity to make respite care work. That’s when it’s time to turn to volunteer organizations or paid professionals. The former are great when you need to free up an afternoon for errands or to hit the courts to help your son with basketball practice. These facilities offer classes, workshops and activities, and may even provide transportation, either gratis or for a nominal fee. Obviously, you need to make sure that the care they provide is on par with your loved one’s level of functioning.
If your loved one is incapacitated, or you need to leave for a few days or even weeks, then you’ll need to look for either a paid professional who is qualified to come to your home or an assisted living center or skilled nursing facility that allows for short-term stays. Before you jump and say that these kinds of arrangements will break the bank, stop. Your insurance might not cover it — check your policy — but some Medicare and Medicaid plans do.
Whether you’ve chosen a relative or a professional to provide respite care, make sure — in writing — that they are aware of all your loved one’s needs. That includes physical limitations, any and all medications, nutrition (including food allergies and sensitivities), and anything else your loved one needs or does throughout the day.
Whatever form of respite care you choose to use, take full advantage of the breathing space it gives you. You’ll gain renewed energy, motivation and peace of mind to continue being the devoted caregiver you are.
And if you have experience with respite care, please don’t forget to share in the comments below.