Everyone needs a vacation now and then to break away from the daily grind and unwind. But as a caregiver, you may wonder how it is possible to get away when someone else relies on you for regular support and assistance. Many family caregivers put their loved ones’ needs before their own and feel guilty about the thought of taking some time to themselves.
Respite is exactly what family caregivers need to recharge their lives and prevent burnout. Making the proper arrangements early on to ensure your loved receives excellent care while you're away will help to alleviate some of these difficult feelings.
If you do not have a friend or relative who is able or willing to take over all caregiving duties while you're away, consider that there are other ways to obtain respite care. Two of the most common options, in-home care and temporary stays in assisted living, are explored in detail below.
In-Home Care Services
A professional caregiver hired through a home care company is able to provide customized care services to meet a senior’s unique needs. An aide can visit for a few hours each day or live in your loved one’s home full-time while you are away. Home care is often the best solution for older individuals who are most comfortable in their familiar home environment.
There are two general levels of in-home services: non-medical home care and home health care. Renata Gelman, a registered nurse and clinical manager for Partners in Care, an affiliate of The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, describes non-medical services as help with activities of daily living (ADLs), meal preparation, medication management and transportation. If your loved one needs skilled medical care provided by trained nurses, such as IV therapy, catheter care or injections, then home health care is necessary.
Gelman says that a reputable home care company should conduct an in-home visit with you and your loved one before services begin. During this visit, they will assess your loved one’s needs, create a customized care plan for them and address your concerns. The company should also request a list of all the information they need from you, such as cell phone numbers, hotels where you will be staying, contact information for a backup person who lives nearby, as well as medical information like a medication list, allergies, and contact information for their doctors.
Many home care companies allow clients to interview individual caregivers before they begin, and Gelman encourages families to take advantage of this opportunity. “Interview several aides and choose the ones you feel would be a good fit with your loved one,” she says. “You're not just hiring the company, you're hiring the person.”
The cost of in-home care can vary widely and depends on the type of services required and the location where they are needed. Costs typically range from $15 to $28 per hour.
Temporary Stays at Assisted Living Facilities
Many assisted living facilities and memory care facilities throughout the country offer short-term respite care stays in fully furnished apartments. Seniors need only bring clothes, toiletries and a few personal items to make them feel at home.
The facility will conduct an initial evaluation of your loved one’s needs and medical condition to develop a personalized care plan that will be used throughout their stay. This is the same procedure used for admitting long-term residents. Your contact and travel information will also be collected to ensure regular communication is possible.
Atria Senior Living calls its temporary stays “retreats,” while other facilities refer to them as short-term stays or respite stays. “The senior enjoys the same amenities as our full-time residents, including restaurant-style meals, social activities, scheduled transportation service, in-room emergency call systems and around-the-clock staff availability for assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs),” says John Hartmayer, Atria's regional vice president.
The general rule is that short-term stays last less than 30 days, but each senior living community has its own minimum and/or maximum stay requirements. Daily fees for temporary stays range from $170 to $300, depending on the level of care required, the location of the community and the size of the apartment, Mr. Hartmayer says. While residential respite care is not covered by Medicare, eligible veterans may be able to receive financial assistance for stays at VA facilities.
A secondary benefit of choosing an assisted living or memory care community for respite is that seniors are able to try out senior living with no strings attached. Many find the amenities and increased social interaction with their peers very refreshing.
Implementing Your Respite Plan
Whichever option you choose, if you keep in touch by phone, email, or video chat while you’re away, you will have greater peace of mind knowing your loved one is well cared for. Make sure to ask the agency or facility who you can contact directly to receive care plan updates whenever you feel the need.
Once you have lined up respite care for your loved one, make a point of disconnecting as best you can, relaxing and enjoying your break.