Excerpts: Adapted with permission from the Link,
St. Louis APDA, May 2010: Vol. 24, Issue 2
By David Lanson, Always There Home Care
For many, the challenges of caring for a loved one are part of daily life. Caregiving is a demanding, difficult job and no one is equipped to do it alone. Getting help is essential for your own health, and your resilience is critical for your loved one. Respite care provides short term breaks that relieve stress, restore energy, and promote balance in your life...There are many respite care options and strategies.
Respite care basics
Seeking support and maintaining one's own health are key to managing the caregiving years. Using respite before you become exhausted, isolated, or overwhelmed is ideal...Respite can take many forms, but boils down to two basic ideas: sharing the responsibility for caregiving and getting support for you. Finding the right balance requires persistence, patience and preparation.
Planning your relief
As a caregiver, is support what you need most? Some free time? Help with transportation? ...Identifying your loved one's needs, abilities and preferences will also help you find the right match. Social activities? Assistance with walking, eating or medications? Mental stimulation? Exercise? ...
Engaging family members in respite care
Family members and friends may be able to help out while you run an errand, take a break or even go on vacation. However ...it can also be a tough process for families to share. Even the healthiest families can be severely stressed by ongoing care, and the division of labor is frequently lopsided. The following tips can encourage support and participation:
• Talk openly and regularly. Keep everyone up to date on your loved one's needs and condition. Family members who don't share the day-to-day caretaking experience may not fully appreciate the situation.
• Encourage family members to evaluate what they can reasonably and honestly do... Welcome different viewpoints, accept limitations, and be willing to try alternate strategies. Share your list of needs and take advantage of all offers to help.
• Recognize your own feelings and discuss disproportionate tasks. Harboring resentment when you need more help can lead to your burnout and impaired health. Ask directly for concrete support and specific time commitments...
• Try free videoconferencing services to hold family meetings at times that work for everyone. Create a web-based community to share updates and explore options. Sites like carepages.com keep family and friends online and in touch.
• Participate in support groups. Learning how other families cope can suggest new options and provide reassurance. When siblings are unable or unwilling to share the load, peer support can be invaluable.
In-home respite care
In home services can be provided by a trained caregiver occasionally, or on a regular basis. Services ... may be arranged directly or through an agency. This respite choice enables individuals to remain in their own environments, and can be invaluable for caregivers. Services may include:
• Cognitive stimulation, recreation, and companionship by home-care businesses providing trained staff to cover short in-home intervals.
• Personal care providers assisting with daily living skills such as bathing, dressing, feeding or toileting.
• Homemaker services supporting meal preparation, shopping and housekeeping.
Selecting respite care services and providers
Whether you engage a provider directly or work through an agency, you can allay your fears by conducting some basic research. Always include the potential care recipient in the screening process if he or she is able to participate, to ensure that both parties are comfortable and that your loved one's needs are respected. For a detailed guide, you can contact your local Area Agency on Aging, or go to MI Seniors website: www.michigan.gov/documents/miseniors/CaregiverHiring-Guide_176399_7.pdf.
Working with agencies
Although independent providers are generally the least expensive, home care agencies and referral services are often easier to use ... An agency finds and places providers, handles payroll, and usually provides substitutes for sick or absent personnel. If problems occur, you also have specific avenues of recourse... that are not available when working with individuals.
Referral services...match your needs with local program options. Use online registries, check
newspaper ads or the yellow pages to find specialists who know local programs and can help you navigate their systems. (Note: MPF often refers callers to local Area Agencies on Aging
for lists of recommended local agencies).
Paying for respite care
In today's challenging economy, you may think respite services are unattainable. However,
thinking creatively can uncover valuable resources:
• Traditional funding sources for respite care.
• Personal Assets/Insurance: Although medical insurance generally does not include respite
coverage, unless licensed medical professionals are involved, long-term care policies usually
fund services up to specific time or dollar limits.
• Veterans' Benefits: The VA provides inpatient respite coverage for up to 30 days per year for qualified veterans. In addition, when wartime vets care for their spouses, funding for in-home services are available on a state-by-state basis.
Strategies for successful respite care
• Relief and revitalization is not important for you alone: it benefits all touched by the caregiving process.
• Evaluate often. Observe your care recipient before and after respite sessions. Ask for brief
updates and more detailed reports regularly.
• Expect changes. Respite care is a process that often requires fine-tuning. Anticipating and
accepting changes in personnel or programs can keep you from becoming discouraged.
• Attend your support group regularly... You can talk, vent, laugh, and exchange tips with
people who understand.
A note from MPF: For additional information on respite care, download