By Marlo Sollitto| Last Updated
We love them, that is why we care for them, even if it means we are on call or on duty every hour of every day. Even if it means sacrifice beyond what we imagined when we said, "Yes, of course." We would not have it any other way. Knowing we can be there when they need us is reward enough.
In a perfect world, that is all true. But we do not live in a perfect world, and we are only human.
The daily wear and tear of caregiving adds up. As a matter of fact, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, those providing 20 hours of care or more on a weekly basis are more likely than others to report loss of sleep, loss of appetite, increased pain and worsened headaches.
In addition, Sybil Ingram-Campbell, BS, MT(ASCP), M, Ed, MBA, PhD. of National Family Caregivers Association warns that the emotional impact of caregiving can include:
Both physical and emotional, as day after day your entire universe is made up of only you and those you care for.
- Depression and Exhaustion
Feeling overwhelmed, combined with refusing to ask for help, may lead to depression.
When you feel this type of anger, your compassion in caregiving could be eroded.
These actions may result in self-punishment or self-denial when you have this belief of having wronged someone or believing that something you did was horrible.
This is where care for the caregiver, or respite, must come into the picture. When you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.
Did you ever notice that people with high level, high stress jobs and careers still manage to make time for themselves? They know that if they don't, poor job performance and burn out could occur. It's no different for caregivers.
But the hard part may not be admitting the need for rest and respite. It might come from not knowing where to turn for help, and not understanding the different roles each resource plays. There are plenty of professionals, volunteers, organizations and businesses that can help you locate the right respite care for you and your loved one. You just have to do some research and know where to look. Start by emploring some of the options below.
Temporary Stays at Senior Living
For elders who are recovering from hospitalization or illness and aren't ready to move back home, or for caregivers who plan to go out town and need a place for their loved one to stay, temporary stays at senior living communities may be an option. Some assisted living residences and independent living communities offer "temporary stay services." While staying in the community, the elder has access to the same services as the permanent residents do: meals, a calendar of social activities, transportation service, in-room emergency call systems, around-the-clock staff availability and more.
Homecare companies provide a broad range of non-medical services to help you get that much-needed respite break. In addition to caring for your loved one, they can also help with shopping and errands, and even prepare meals or do laundry.
Adult Day Care
Adult day care centers are places where elderly people can go to be looked after while their caregiver works, run errands or simply take a break. Adult day care services provide a safe, secure and social environment for elderly people to visit for a few hours or a full day.
Geriatric Care Managers
If you feel overwhelmed by decisions about a loved one's care, a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) may be the person you need. Most GCM's are licensed social workers or nurses. The Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) requires its members be licensed in their fields, trained in geriatrics and adhere to its guidelines for professional conduct.
Hospital Patient Advocates
If your loved one is hospitalized, and you are unsure where to turn with your questions about inpatient and outpatient care, locate the hospital patient advocate. Advocates, whose services are provided free of charge to patients and their families, are there for just such situations, so don't be shy – seek them out.
Senior Centers offer older people a safe environment where they can take part in a range of activities led by trained personnel. Some of these organizations provide respite care, telephone visitors, in-home visitors, nursing home visitors, home health aides, support groups, adult day care, and information and referrals for accessing other services available in the community. Contact the Senior Center nearest you for detailed information.
About 750 programs throughout the 50 states use volunteers to provide caregiving services to families when respite care is needed just for a few hours. Low income may not be a requirement for receiving services.
Lotsa Helping Hands, is a volunteer coordination service for friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to assist loved ones in need. It's an easy-to-use, private group calendar, specifically designed for organizing helpers, allowing everyone to pitch in with meals, transportation, and other tasks necessary for life to run smoothly.
Local places of worship and town social workers are other good sources of information about local volunteer programs, as are service organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions.
You think about them. They think about you. So consider calling on your friends for the help you may need. They care about you, and may offer to sit with your loved one while you run errands, or help out with meals.
But the best role of all for your friends is being a friend. Laugh together. Cry together. Tell about triumphs. Tell about defeats. Your friends can help keep life in perspective, and give you the emotional support and boost you need. This can be the best respite of all.
Sitter and Companion Services
Sitter-companion services are sometimes provided by local civic groups, the faith community and other community organizations. A regular sitter-companion can provide friendly respite care for a few hours, once or twice a week. Care must be taken to assure that the sitter-companion is trained in what to do if an emergency occurs while the regular care-giver is out of the home.
There are many national and/or non-profit agencies that offer a variety of services and respite resources. They are normally accessible via websites and most have toll-free numbers. Many help caregivers find information, provide referrals, a network of support groups, and publications and programs that promote public awareness of the value and the needs of family caregivers.
When searching for respite options, consider making your city, county and state social service agencies might be able to help. Even if you think you will not qualify for specific services, agencies might be able to make referrals to other organizations that can be of assistance.
Refer to the county government listings in your local phone book for information on agencies that may offer direction, such as:
- Health and Human Services Department
- Social Service Department
- Public Health Department
- Social Security Administration
- Medical Board
- Mental Health Department
An online community or support group may provide the mental, emotional and social respite that gets you through the day. These intricate communities provide a place where caregivers can connect with one another, and share tips, advice, and challenges.
How to Choose a Respite Provider
Some states require licensing for respite providers. If your state does not, it is even more important to do a thorough background and qualifications check, especially if you are dealing with individuals who are not associated with companies or agencies. Most company and agency providers do background and reference checks for their employees, but do not assume, ask. Here is a quick checklist to use when considering a provider:
- Telephone screening and interview
- Do an an in-person visit if possible
- Ask for references
- Check references and criminal background
- Evaluate costs and financing
- Get a contract that provides specific details
Remember, there's no set formula or protocol when it comes to respite. It's a caregiver's break that's all yours. It may be a phone call with a friend while your loved one naps. Or it might be a weekend away with your spouse. It could be getting a massage or going to the library. The possibilities are as unique as you and your situation – but whatever you do, don't pass up a chance for a change of pace. You need it – and your loved one needs you to have it.