Relief for the Caregiver
Mike Mathers, ARCH
"I love him but I just can't do it anymore. The physical and emotional demands are causing me to lose my own health. Soon, I will be in the same shape that he is in. I need some help."
Statements like this are common among family members and caregivers caring for loved ones such as the elderly with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and other conditions that require around-the-clock care. Even though most families take great joy in providing care to their loved ones so that they can remain at home, the physical, emotional and financial consequences can be overwhelming without some support, such as respite. Respite provides the much needed temporary break from the often exhausting challenges imposed by constant caregiving.
Respite care provides, short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home. Research has shown that providing this type of help can have a positive effect on the health of the caregiver.
Without respite, not only can families suffer economically and emotionally, caregivers themselves may face serious health and social risks as a result of stress associated with continuous caregiving. Three fifths of family caregivers age 19-64 surveyed recently by the Commonwealth Fund reported fair or poor health, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with only one-third of non caregivers.
A Commonwealth Fund study of elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) found that caregivers who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.
Many caregivers may also find themselves in crisis situations due to job loss, homelessness, substance abuse or their own ill health. A temporary haven to ensure the safety of the person for whom they provide constant care becomes an absolute necessity.
Respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and wellbeing, avoid or delay out-of-home placements, and reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect. According to the ARCH National Respite Network, data from an outcome based evaluation pilot study show that respite may also reduce the likelihood of divorce and help sustain marriages.
Respite is among the most frequently requested services for those providing care at home.
Models for Respite
There are various models for providing respite care. Here are a few:
In-home respite. In-home care is popular for obvious reasons. The temporary caregiver comes to the regular caregiver's home, and gets to know the care receiver in his or her normal environment. The temporary caregiver learns the family routine, where medicines are stored, and the care receiver is not inconvenienced by transportation and strange environments. In this model, friends, relatives and paid professionals may be used. Depending on the state, Medicaid or Medicare may be used to help cover costs.
Another in-home model will utilize friends and neighbors as helping hands where the primary caregiver never leaves the premises but may simply be getting a break so that they can cook dinner or pay the bills.
Specialized facility. Another model uses a specialized, local facility where the care receiver may stay for a few days or a few weeks. The advantage of this model is that the specialized facility will probably have better access to emergency facilities and professional assistance if needed.
Emergency respite. There may be the need for respite care on an emergency basis. When using "Planned" emergency care, the caregiver has already identified a provider or facility to call in case there is an emergency. Many homecare agencies, adult day care, health centers, and residential care facilities provide emergency respite care.
Sitter-companion services. Sitter-companion services are sometimes provided by local civic groups, the faith community and other community organizations. A regular sitter-companion can provide friendly respite care for a few hours, once or twice a week. Care must be taken to assure that the sitter-companion is trained in what to do if an emergency occurs while the regular care-giver is out of the home.
Therapeutic Adult Day Care. Therapeutic Adult Day Care may provide respite care during business hours five days a week.
Reprinted with permission from Agingcare.com. AgingCare.com is a website and online forum for people caring for their aging parents. Caregivers can communicate with each other, get answers from elder care experts and access news, information and products related to caregiving.
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