“The holidays are over, but I am still exhausted. I wish I could just take a little break from my responsibilities as caregiver, but who will take care of my mother if I do? I know respite care is an option, but I don’t really understand what it does. Can you explain how respite care can help me?” – Carole from Fair Oaks

Being a caregiver typically means you are on the job day and night without a break. While you may enjoy the time you spend with your loved one, you still deserve a break to tend to your own needs or just relax. You are more than just your role as caregiver, and if you do not allow yourself the opportunity for self-care, you may be making your life more stressful than it has to be.

What is Respite Care?

Simply put, respite care is when someone other than the primary caregiver tends to the needs of a loved one. Respite care can take place in a residential or institutional setting or the elderly person may remain in place and a caregiver can come to the home. Facilities at every level of care, including memory care for dementia patients, have the skilled staff to provide temporary care assistance for caregivers. You know that when you take a break, the person who is filling your role has the experience to provide needed services in your absence. You can even ask a friend or family member to take over for a few hours at a time if your loved one does not require skilled care.

When to Use Respite Care

Some caregivers rely on respite care when they take a vacation or have other obligations away from home. Others may decide to use it for a day or two to take care of household maintenance, visit with out-of-town guests, or schedule their own medical care. Since respite care is intended as a temporary solution for caregiving, you have the flexibility to choose when to arrange it and for what duration of time.

If you have never tried it, you may want to consider a few hours at a time to see how your loved one adjusts. If you are comfortable with an afternoon off to run errands or treat yourself to a massage, you may be more likely to use respite care for longer periods of time for a much-needed vacation. Some families may also test drive a facility to see if it is a good fit for their loved one who may require more care than they can provide.

An Easy Transition

You can make respite care a positive experience for your loved one by staying organized and prepared. Communicate with your relief caregiver about what needs your loved one has and make a list if you find it helpful. You may also want your loved one to meet the caregiver prior to any break so they can get to know each other. While your elderly parent may resist the idea at first, you can help them adjust and feel safe by listening to and discussing their concerns. Most importantly, you should not feel guilty about using respite care. You have a tremendous responsibility as a caregiver, and you deserve time apart to rest and recharge.

Best of luck!



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