Respite Care for the Elderly Is Important for Family Caregivers

As the number of family caregivers in our country increases, so does the number of people suffering from exhaustion, overwhelm, isolation, depression and physical ailments related to all of these.

Caregivers have dedicated their time to caring for a loved one and as such, have little time for their own needs. As their loved one’s physical decline increases or as a condition such as dementia becomes worse, the family caregiver becomes more involved in that care and less able to take the time to refresh themselves. It’s often a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week commitment.

Sometimes a caregiver is far away from family and friends who may offer assistance or sometimes they are the sole caregiver for their loved one. This is why respite care for the elderly is needed.

What Is Respite Care for the Elderly?

Respite care for the elderly is simply a service that supports and maintains the primary caregiving relationship by providing temporary care to an aging parent or loved one.

What Are the Benefits of Respite Care for the Elderly?

  • R – Renewal and Relaxation: Taking a walk, strolling leisurely through the mall, visiting a museum or doing whatever brings joy can calm a caregiver, decrease their heart rate and improve their mood.
  • E - Energy: To be effective in their own work, a caregiver must be afforded time to re-energize. Even an automobile won’t run on empty.
  • S – Space: Getting away from the caregiving situation for even just a few hours helps with relaxation and brings a renewed sense of purpose.
  • P – Pleasure: A caregiver must remember that they have the right to enjoy life even if they feel their care recipient cannot do the same.
  • I – Identity: A caregiver must be intentional in maintaining a sense of self.
  • T – Time away from the situation allows a caregiver to see it more clearly and upon return, adjustments can be made to improve the experience.
  • E - Engagement: Social isolation can be a huge problem for caregivers. It’s important to take time to engage with friends and family by sharing lunch, taking a shopping trip or a walk in the park.

These are just some of the benefits of respite care for the elderly. On a less poetic note, respite care also enables the family caregiver to run errands in a much more expedient fashion, to maintain their health by allowing regular visits with their own physician and time to attend support groups.

Respite care for the elderly also helps to delay the placement of a loved one into a higher level of care for a longer period of time and can reduce the possibility of abuse and/or neglect.

Where Can I Find Respite Care for the Elderly?

Respite care services are offered through community agencies, home health care companies and residential care facilities. Many assisted living facilities are now offering overnight respite care for the elderly as well as daytime care.

Although there is usually a fee for these services, there are some agencies that have scholarship programs to offer respite care to the elderly without cost to the caregiver. Some churches are now offering this type of service, as well.

What If My Loved One Won’t Accept Respite Care?

There are ways to “ease into” respite care in such a way that your loved one will be more accepting of it. For example, a home health care agency may send a care worker to help with the laundry or other light housekeeping. As your loved one becomes more comfortable with their presence, he or she can transition into the companion mode, and the caregiver can depart for awhile.

A geriatric care manager will be able to help you find the respite care for your elderly loved one that suits your needs as well as help you with the acceptance factor.

Written by senior caregiving expert Shelley Webb, RN.

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