All caregivers need a break from their responsibilities from time to time, but after months or years of providing care for a loved one with dementia, a proper vacation is usually in order. Respite care is simple to arrange for a few hours in the daytime, but how do you find a provider to handle temporary care and supervision for a senior over several days and nights?
Fortunately, there are a few different types of “vacation care” for the elderly. Finding the right fit depends on a senior’s mental and physical health status, whether any other care team members are willing to lend a hand, and the budget for respite care. Regardless of whether you are caring for a loved one in your home or helping them maintain as much independence as possible in their own home, keep in mind that their funds should be used to cover the cost of respite care (but not your vacation). Your services as a caregiver, whether they are paid or unpaid, are helping to delay their permanent move to long-term care and the expenses associated with senior living. It only makes sense that they should foot the bill for the respite care necessary for you to take a well-deserved break.
While taking a vacation may seem frivolous to some, doing so will allow you to decompress and enjoy yourself, enabling you to be a better caregiver when you return. Building adequate respite into a senior’s care plan is crucial for preventing caregiver burnout. If you do not make an effort to reduce your stress levels and engage in life outside of caregiving, it is likely that your loved one will wind up receiving mediocre care from you or moving into a senior living facility earlier than anticipated—two outcomes that most family caregivers actively try to prevent.
Not all caregivers have a large family or a robust support system to help them balance elder care and self-care. However, there are professional care providers that can look after seniors so their family members can take some time away from caregiving. So, explore the following respite options and start planning your getaway!
Temporary Elder Care Options
Professional home care services may provide sufficient care and supervision for seniors who are still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. However, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your loved one’s abilities and whether they can be left alone without jeopardizing their safety.
For example, if your mom has mild cognitive impairment and still lives in her own home and your main caregiving functions include helping with meal preparation, medication reminders and housework for a couple hours each day, then hiring a home care companion would be an excellent fit. On the other hand, if Mom lives with you and needs near-constant supervision to prevent wandering and ensure her safety, then the only way in-home care would work is to hire around-the-clock professional caregivers while you are away.
Unfortunately, the cost of 24/7 or live-in home care is prohibitive for many families. If other members of your loved one’s care team can step in and handle caregiving in your absence, then a few hours of in-home care can supplement their efforts and help mitigate the costs of this option for respite care, which are usually paid for out of pocket.
Adult Day Care
Adult day care services are another option that is a bit less customizable than in-home care. Adult day centers usually only provide care during daytime hours on weekdays, but some centers may be open on weekends. This type of elder care is perfect if another member of your loved one’s care team must work during the day but is able to provide care and supervision overnight while you’re gone.
There are adult day centers that specialize in providing daytime care for seniors with dementia, and some called adult day health centers even provide health management and medical services as well. Most adult day care services are paid for out of pocket, but some centers offer reasonable daily rates on a sliding scale or even contract with Medicaid to provide respite options for low-income seniors.
Short-Term Respite Stays in Senior Living
While in-home care and adult day care services (or some combination of the two) are excellent respite care options for shorter vacations, longer absences may require a back-up care plan with fewer moving parts. Many senior living facilities offer short-term stays in independent living, assisted living, memory care units and nursing homes. Some hospice programs even offer inpatient respite programs for family caregivers of seniors who are terminally ill.
Figuring out which type of care is the best fit for a loved one’s temporary stay depends largely on their health status and unique needs. Assisted living provides assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) but does not offer 24/7 supervision, and residents are free to come and go. Memory care offers similar services with the added benefits of staff trained in dementia care, increased supervision and secure units that prevent dementia patients from wandering off the premises. Nursing homes provide the highest level of around-the-clock care, including ADL assistance and skilled nursing services.
Each long-term care facility has different policies for respite stays. For example, some offer daily rates while others may have a time minimum, such as a week, for short-term stays. It’s important to work with a facility to learn about their policies and conduct a needs assessment to determine if it might be a good fit for your loved one.
Aside from allowing families to take a break while knowing their loved ones are well cared for, one of the best aspects of temporary respite stays is that both caregivers and dementia patients can experience what senior living is like on a trial basis. This may help set the groundwork for a possible permanent move to a long-term care facility.
Don’t Forget to Vet Elder Care Providers
Whether a friend has offered to sit with your loved one for a few hours each day while you’re gone or you’ve decided to hire 24-hour home care, it’s important to carefully evaluate your chosen respite care provider(s) ahead of your departure. Putting in the time and effort to ensure your loved one will receive compassionate, high-quality care will help you disconnect from what is going on back home and give you invaluable peace of mind during your trip.