Respite Care: Taking a Break
Whether you realize it or not, when you become a caregiver you are living someone’s illness. And living it almost every waking moment. Though many caregivers feel that playing this role was one of the best things they ever did for themselves and their loved one, you cannot completely sacrifice yourself in the process. Respite care can give you the break you need—so you can be your best for your loved one.
Care for you
Respite care is short-term, temporary relief for family caregivers offered by most hospices. It can either be provided in the home or temporarily in a higher care facility. Respite care provides family caregivers with a much-needed temporary break from the often-exhausting challenges of their role. In fact, respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and well-being while preventing or delaying out-of-home placements. 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. Respite care, in reality, is care for you—the caregiver.
Get help early
It’s best for everyone involved when you enlist the help of respite care early. Many experts in caregiving advise that if you’ve been caring for a loved one more than a month or two, it is time to consider respite care. Tell your hospice nurse that you are interested in planning for respite care. If you are worried about leaving your loved one, your hospice nurse can comfort you by giving you an honest assessment of your loved one’s condition. Do they have months, weeks, or only days left? Of course, if it’s only days, you’ll want to stay. But if you have weeks or months of caregiving ahead of you, then taking a break may be the best plan.
Listen to your friends
Often, when you’re caught up in caring for a loved one, you don’t realize the toll that it’s taking on your own personal health and well-being. You may lose sleep, forgo exercise, or become too busy to eat well—missing meals or eating more junk food. But sometimes others can see what we can’t. If friends or family are telling you that you need to take a break, they most likely see the toll your role of caregiver has taken on you.
Even though you don’t want to be away, and you take great joy in caring for your loved one, you do need to take breaks. Respite care will allow you to get some much-needed time away, so you can continue to fulfill your role as caregiver. Ask your hospice nurse to help you schedule a long weekend or even a week and get away. Your loved one will have the care they need, and you will be able to rejuvenate.
Know your respite care options
There are several types of respite care that may be available to you and your loved one. Your hospice nurse can help you explore the following options:
- In-Home Respite. If keeping your loved one at home is feasible and important, you can arrange for of in-home respite care. A temporary caregiver comes to your home, gets to know your loved one, their needs, and their normal routine. In this model, friends, volunteers, relatives, and paid professionals may be used. Depending on the state, Medicaid or Medicare may be used to help cover costs. Your Delaware Hospice team can connect you with outside resources to make this possible.
- Higher Care Facility. Many specialized higher care facilities, like the Delaware Hospice Center, offer temporary respite care–providing a safe place where your loved one may stay for the short term.
- Emergency Respite Care. Since life is unpredictable, it is good to pre-plan for emergency respite care. This allows you to have options if you suddenly have to be away for things like work-related issues or funerals, or if other family members or friends need you. Many adult daycare centers, health centers, and residential care facilities provide emergency respite care. Depending on the medical situation, the Delaware Hospice Center may be able to provide support.
- Sitter Companion Services. Sitter companion services are sometimes provided by local civic groups, faith communities, and other community organizations. A regular sitter companion can provide friendly respite care for a few hours once or twice a week. This service allows you to get away for a few hours and take care of other things or just have some much needed “me time.” Delaware Hospice can connect you with one of our highly-trained volunteers or with other community resources that provide sitter companion services.
Caring for a loved one can be very fulfilling and an incredibility loving experience, but it is also extremely exhausting. Give all that you can, but realize you have personal limits. Respect those limits, because you have to take care of yourself if you want to keep caring for your loved one. Respite care will allow you to do just that.