Respite Care

Many family caregivers put their loved ones’ needs before their own and feel guilty about the thought of taking some time to themselves. In fact, the majority of family caregivers in the Caregiver Forum question how it is possible to get away when someone else relies on you for regular support and assistance. Respite, however, is exactly what family caregivers need to recharge their lives and prevent burnout.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care can be short or long term, planned or emergency but is meant to be a temporary break for family caregivers who are providing full-time care for aging loved ones. The physical, emotional and financial toll of providing long-term unpaid care is a heavy burden for family caregivers. Making the proper arrangements to ensure a loved receives excellent care while the primary caregiver takes a break helps to alleviate some of the stress and physical and emotional fatigue that lead to caregiver burnout.

Respite care comes in many forms. Some caregivers find the ability to take a coffee break or complete errands on their own is enough time to recharge. Others are looking for a longer-term respite, such as a weekend away or vacation with family in order to restore and recharge.

Respite Care Options

Family, Friends & Community Support

Oftentimes, family members or long-time friends are willing and able to help, however they don't know how to contribute. Don't hesitate to identify needs, match those needs with the most fitting friend or family member, and ask for assistance. If you do not have a friend or relative who can take over caregiving duties while you take a break, consider using other community resources for respite care. Every bit of assistance helps. Many communities offer adult day care, in-home meal delivery services, senior centers and volunteer programs to support older adults. Contact your Area Agency on Aging to learn what supportive services are available near you.

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 for short-term respite or live in your loved one’s home full-time while you take some time away. Home care is often the best solution for older individuals who are most comfortable in their familiar home environment.

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 like help with activities of daily living (ADLs), meal preparation, medication management and transportation as core components of a respite care plan.

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 (e.g., a complete medication list, known allergies, contact information for their doctors).

Many home care companies allow clients to interview individual caregivers before they begin services, 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 explains. “You're not just hiring the company; you're hiring the person you both feel most comfortable with providing care in your absence.”

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,” notes 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. According to Hartmayer, 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. 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 older adults 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 so that you can return with a renewed energy to provide high quality care.

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