Millions of family caregivers throughout our country are putting in long, unpaid hours and coping with very difficult elders with little to no help. Sadly, this is a prevalent issue and a guaranteed recipe for caregiver burnout. If family members won’t get on board and you don’t have much money to spare, how can you get a break?
Consider giving yourself the gift of respite, or a temporary reprieve from your caregiving duties. If you can manage it financially, there are elder care resources available that can help you take a break and recharge your batteries.
Senior Living Communities Offer Respite Services
Many senior living facilities, such as assisted living communities, memory care units and nursing homes offer short-term care for an elder so that their family caregivers can take a break, go on vacation or just enjoy freedom from their responsibilities for a bit. Often, the senior living facility will care for your elder for a day, weekend or a couple of weeks, without further obligation to move in or sign on for any other services. Your loved one will get a nice place to stay, meals, routine care, the opportunity to socialize, full access to the community’s amenities and even the ability to participate in special events and activities. Depending on how the senior living community charges for temporary residents, you may be able to pay by the day, weekend or week. Regardless of whether you are a part-time or full-time caregiver, you deserve a vacation now and then, just as everyone does from any other job. Find a way to take it. There is no need for guilty feelings.
Adult Day Care Services
Adult day care centers are another excellent source of more regular and more affordable respite care. The cost is often reasonable, though it varies a great deal among states and regions. Adult day care centers offer various services and levels of care to meet seniors’ unique needs. Do some research to see what kinds of local adult day programs are available.
Financial Support for Respite Care
If you don’t have the money to pay for respite care at a facility, it is possible to apply for a respite care grant or scholarship. Elder care providers and charitable organizations commonly offer financial assistance to families who are caring for loved ones with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Contact local adult day care centers, in-home care companies, senior living communities as well as local chapters of larger non-profit organizations to inquire about respite opportunities.
Many national, state and local organizations offer grants, volunteer services and other resources to help family caregivers obtain even small amounts of respite care. It’s likely that you’ll have to do some research to see what options are available to you based on where you live, your financial status, your loved one’s health conditions, etc. If you can’t get a scholarship, or the wait to see if you get it is too long, consider using free or low-cost networks of support, such as church or religious groups, volunteer organizations, or family and friends. Others may not offer to give you a break but may be very willing to do so if you just ask. If you normally get holiday gifts from family, why not ask for the funds to get respite care instead?
Overcome Feelings of Guilt
While no one can take care of an aging loved one the way you can, others are quite capable of giving you some relief. If your own family is unable or unwilling to help, then your only option is to turn to outside sources. This may take some work, but it’s worth the effort. If you need to give yourself an excuse because you feel you “should” be available around the clock for an aging loved one, think about loving yourself enough to allow yourself to rest. A break can recharge your batteries and help you keep going on the journey ahead. If you continue forging on providing 24/7 care, it is only a matter of time before caregiver burnout sets in and your mental and physical health begin to fail.
A lot of difficult feelings arise while providing care for an aging loved one. If you’re feeling depressed, anxious, resentful or just plain numb, do NOT feel bad for feeling this way. No one should feel guilty about needing to take time off. The first step is recognizing you need help and the second step is finding and implementing the support systems you need. Making an appointment with your doctor or a mental health care professional is another good idea. Take care of you!
Many caregivers suffer from burnout. While you can’t change your aging loved one’s condition, you can do things for yourself. In addition to seeking out respite care, search for caregiver support groups and try one out. It can be a big relief just to share the everyday burdens with other people who understand the pressure you’re under because they’re feeling it, too. These groups are also excellent sources of information on respite resources you may not have considered before.
Bruce Webb is a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and has an extensive network of Senior related referrals.