Monday, December 16, 2013
And Respite For All!
I wrote this post a while ago, but I think it got lost in my folder so I never posted it. It seems particularly appropriate to post it now, during the busiest, most stressful time of the year. I wish you all a beautiful year's end and an abundant New Year!
All right caregivers. Yes, I’m talking to you – those of you who have doing this for a while, and those of you who are new to the job. What I’m about to say has been said before, many times, but it bears repeating. We all know this is a rewarding, tough, challenging, maddening, time-and-energy-consuming, wonderful, crazy-making, exhausting, special task you’ve taken on. We all know that nobody but you can provide the specialized, loving, unique care that your loved one requires; that only you know exactly what they need and how they need it; that they will respond only to you and that you are irreplaceable. We know this. But guess what? You are replaceable – at least for a short while – and finding this out may be exactly what saves you and your loved one later on down the road.
Respite care is simply that, a person, organization, or facility that assumes care of the care-taker for a brief period of time so that the caregiver can have a break. Respite care can be as informal as a family member or friend stepping in for a few hours, or as formal as a facility taking physical charge of the care-taker for a few hours to several days. There are hourly adult day care/health programs in most major cities and there are usually area facilities that provide short term care. Why is this so important? Because caregivers can’t be everywhere all the time doing everything. It’s just not possible. When I was living with Dad in the earlier stages of his dementia, he went once a week to an adult day program where he attended a support group for men, was given lunch, and did other projects and activities. It was good for him and vital for me to have those few hours to myself. In addition, an old family friend took him for a few hours each week; they went to lunch and did other activities, walked her dogs, or worked on her garden, and he loved the interaction.
Studies (and my own personal conversations) show that family caregivers are reluctant to use respite services, often for very good reasons. Ranging from lack of money for services to guilt at taking time for oneself to fear that one’s care-taker will be upset or agitated to fear of bodily harm and abuse – all of these are legitimate issues. However, the reasons to USE respite care are even better. The most important is that caregivers who get a few hours a week away from their duties are healthier, happier, and better able to do their job – it’s a proven fact! In addition, respite activities can provide outside stimulation and interaction for a care-taker. One of the most important reasons to use respite care is the fact that there will most likely be problems of some sort during your tenure as a caregiver that you will have to address – having an established relationship with a place or person that your care-taker trusts and likes so that they can be cared for in an emergency can be priceless. I urge you to locate the programs and/or facilities in your area that provide this type of care – you and your care-taker will be better off!
Check with these organizations and sites for ideas and resources for finding care in your area.
The Family Caregiver Alliance runs a resource center and publishes fact sheets and a newsletter with tips for family caregivers. The organization can be reached by calling 1-415-434-3388 or visiting its website at http://www.caregiver.org
Information concerning adult day services can be obtained from the National Adult Day Services Association at (703) 610-9005 or by visiting their website at:
To find out more about programs where you live, you can contact your local aging information and assistance provider or area agency on aging (AAA). The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging (at 1-800-677-1116 or http://www.eldercare.gov ) can help connect you to these agencies.