Need a Break from Caregiving? Avoid Burnout, Find Respite Care


Millions of caregivers throughout our country are putting in long hours, putting up with very difficult circumstances, including difficult aging loved ones, and have little or no relief. If you don't have much money to spare, how can you get a break? Do you dare give yourself one?

Consider giving yourself the gift of respite, or rest, temporarily, from your caregiving duties. If you are able to manage it financially, many senior living facilities offer short term care for an elder so that family caregivers can take a break, get away, or just have freedom from the responsibility for a bit. Often, the senior living facility will care for your elder for a weekend, or a week, without further obligation to move in or sign on for any other services. A nice place to stay, meals, socialization and sometimes special events are all made available to the elder. You pay by the day, or weekend, or week, according to how the facility creates respite care for those who do not live full time in the facility.

The same kind of respite care may be available at assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, and adult day care services, if these are in your area. The cost is often reasonable, though it varies a great deal among states and regions. It is certainly worth asking about. If you are a caregiver, either part time or full time, you deserve a vacation now and then, just as everyone does from any other job. Find a way to take it, and there is no need for guilty feelings.

If you don't have the money to pay for respite care at a facility, it is possible to apply for a grant. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, part of the Alzheimer's Association, makes a limited number of Family Respite Care Grants available for families who are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. There are application deadlines in spring and fall. See for details. Not everyone who applies gets the grant, but it is certainly worth a try.

If you can't get a grant, or the wait to see if you get it is too long, consider using networks of support that other caregivers are using: church or religious groups, volunteer organizations or family and friends. Arranging in advance for a rest for yourself can be done. You'll need to think it through, do your research, set up a time on your calendar, and then execute your plan! Others may not offer to give you a break, but may be very willing to do so if you ask. If you normally get holiday gifts from family, why not ask for the funds to get respite care instead?

While no one can take care of an aging loved one the way you can, others are quite capable of giving you some relief. If your own family is unable or unwilling to help, give you a rest from your duties, go outside the family in every way possible. This may take some work, but it's worth the effort. If you need to give yourself an excuse because you feel you "should" be available non-stop for an aging loved one, think about loving yourself enough to allow a rest. A break can recharge your batteries and help you keep going on the journey ahead.

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I go to school at a local university and might I suggest you check in the psychology dept. or the education dept. Usually they have a bulletin board for students. I have seen postings for people looking for help there since the students are looking for work and or experience with special people. Also Caregiverslight, I know it feels like you are disrespecting your loved ones' feeling but its a matter of sanity. Remember when your parent left you at a babysitters for the first time and you cried. It was for the best. Your parent came back refreshed and everyone was all the better for it. And maybe you even made a new friend. The same thing happened when you had to go to school for the first time. Maybe you didn't want to go but your parent dropped you there anyway. Its difficult but for your benefit. Maybe if you look at it that way you can manage to leave your parent with someone else. I feel bad sometines when I leave my someone else to care for my mom but usually when I come back she tells me how much she appreciates me. Its not that they are so horrible its just that I do all the extra little things like I'm sure you do. Good Luck and I hope things go better for you.
If you, the caregiver, becomes unavailable, either through stress/illness/fate, what will happen then? Why wait to find out and make a tough situation into a catastrophe? We hired some help who were experienced with elderly and they have thick skin! My Mom behaved much better around them than she does me. Humans can adapt to anything, some noisier than others. Your health, both physical and mental are equally as important as those you care for. It is not healthy to sacrifice yourself completely for one person. You need to take care of yourself first.
I would look into having an elder law specialist structure things, and yes there is a lookback period, but you can begin to get partial benefits, discounted to account for extra assets. If your dad is gone and he was in the military, there is something called "Aids and Attendants" VA benefit that can be paid to facilities or individuals (I'm told it's more if to a licensed facility) to Attend to the senior. Dr has to say it's needed (looks like it here)
and I take care of seniors daily, some of whom say for weeks or months that they "hate this place" and they give relatives guilt trips. Then there is a breakthrough when they get sick or go to hospital or even if their condition Improves as a result of regular Socialization, Good Nutritious Food - I eat well but boy now, much better b/c we have a Dietician doing the menus and when I shop for Angel House (Ft Laud area) I don't have TIME for much in my Own life anymore so my son & I eat equally healthy, taking a few portions of food from that batch & storing in my home fridge/freezer... Their meds on time, a primary care Dr Monthly, no schlepping across town, podiatrist every other month, all thru Medicare, No Co-pays... We have a Wii, a computer, books, games & puzzles, a heated safety fenced pool and a park on the next block. Add compassionate caregivers who organize games, people who visit to play music weekly.... We take them to Lion Country (drive-thru zoo) other attractions, parks, dances, they have a visiting educational program thru the county & a local university...
They Hardly notice their kids drive away after the first week or two in Day care with us. Some come only Thursday, b/c that's music day. Others come Tue Thur Sat, or Mon, Wed Fri, or when family is out of town, on respite or what have you, so they can stay alone over the weekend with another relative or maybe a neighbor in the condo bldg to look in on them, be sure they eat, and then we or the senior bus picks them up to bring to us M-F for the week family is gone for example.
It can be done, and yeah they Don't want to be put in a nursing home, but there are so many Good Small ALF homes now and that's not Institutional. They make friends and grow to love and trust other caregivers when their primary one is gone out or needs a break.
When it comes to family caring for seniors, I've found the Silence is Deafening. They do not Talk - we talk to them like adults, remind them their kids used to wail and cling to their skirts when mom, first dropped them at school, right? So a little separation anxiety is Normal, change is always a little scary but now they are used to a different life than 10 years ago, so this is a Positive Addition to their life and to the Good things they can have in it, to replace some of the fun they've lost. Framed in that light, it gets better. They learn to thank you for getting them extra help.