Being a caregiver to an ill or incapacitated loved one may sound like a mission of mercy at first, something you want to do simply because you care so much. After several months, however, even the hardiest and most dedicated caregiver can find themselves in need of a break. They could even begin feeling depressed. Experts know this is normal, but most people underestimate the commitment of time, energy and emotions required to be a caregiver. Experts also know that the best way to stave off the negative effects of being a caregiver is to take time off.
Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Think about it this way: When you get on a plane and the flight attendant goes through the required talk about emergencies in flight, one of the things you hear is, “Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” The premise is the same with caregiving: You have to put yourself first so you can continue to provide the level of care your loved one needs.
And you’re not alone. An AARP Public Policy Institute reports states: “About 40 million family caregivers provided 37 billion hours of care for parents, spouses, partners and other adult loved ones worth an estimated $470 billion in 2013, up from $450 billion in 2009. How much is $470 billion? It’s nearly as much as the total sales of the world’s largest companies, including Walmart ($485.9 billion for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2017).” That’s an entire industry of unpaid workers spending their days and nights caring for someone, and often not looking out for themselves.
But there’s help — respite care!
What is Respite Care?
Respite care is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There’s in-home companion or personal respite care; full-time, short- or long-term respite care in a facility; daytime care at an age-appropriate facility; and respite care options for veterans. Even before you start to feel the impact of being caregiver, it’s a good idea to understand what options are available and of those, which are best for your loved one.
For example, you may be able to get relief from another family member who can take a shift once a week as a companion or personal caregiver in the home. That will allow you several hours to get your hair cut or styled, see a movie, spend time with your friends, shop, or just relax. Ideally, you’ll be able to set up a regular schedule so you can make appointments and have a free day to look forward to during the week.
Another great option is day care at a residential or public facility. Caregivers with full- or part-time jobs will find this option especially attractive. Individuals who are able to communicate well and participate in activities are best suited for day care, while those with conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s may not benefit.
When a caregiver needs an extended period of time away for a vacation or work-related trip, short-term respite care at a licensed facility is often the best — and easiest — option for everyone. This is particularly beneficial when a loved one needs hands-on assistance with daily-living activities like dressing, walking and taking medications. It’s also a great way to try a facility in advance if you’re considering long-term care. In-house respite care also benefits the caregiver, who can take time off knowing their loved one is being cared for by professionals and receiving all the attention necessary to remain safe and happy.
No matter your needs, creating a plan for the future is important for both caregiver and loved one. The Aging & Adult Services Agency at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offers a variety of help on its website, including a link to the “CDC Caregiving Care Plan” form to help you prepare for both scheduled and emergency respite care needs.
Who Pays for Respite Care?
Many caregivers put off respite care because of the fear that it costs too much, that it isn’t covered under insurance or Medicare. Because of these perfectly legitimate concerns, family and caregivers should investigate the best options available for their loved ones according to their specific needs, conditions, location and ability to pay. There are several agencies and organizations that offer help and advice, including:
The professionals at Ganton’s Countryside are also available to answer questions and help you choose the right respite care for your loved one. Find out what Countryside has to offer in our blog, “Respite Care in Jackson Michigan.”