We have all felt like we could use a few more hours in the day.
Many of us play the role of Mom/Dad, daughter/son, employee, homemaker, friend, family member and more. Every role you play has responsibilities that go along with it.
However, maintaining a breakneck pace is not healthy.
Taking time away from caregiving responsibilities is called respite, and it’s important for a caregiver’s mental and physical health.
According to the National Alliance for Caregivers, over half of all caregivers do not take time for themselves. However, using respite care, in any form, can reduce stress and improve family relationships.
While taking this time does involve some planning, by identifying individuals or agencies that can take over your responsibilities for a short period of time, it will allow you a much-needed break without feeling guilty.
Finding A Respite Service
There are many different levels of respite within the community. These services can range from companionship for a few hours, to adult day care, to overnight stays in a facility. There are many agencies available that will provide non-medical assistance in the home for an hourly rate. Services may include companionship, running errands, grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping or laundry. The key is to shop around and find an agency that will match your needs in terms of the amount of hours needed and types of services needed. And, of course, make sure the agency is licensed, bonded and insured.
Cynthia Buchanan, owner of Second Family Assistance Services in Wickliffe, says her agency “helps bridge the gap in care.”
She adds for her agency, “If only one or two hours are needed for care, we can provide that.”
Sometimes, in more complex situations, when a caregiver needs to go out of town or needs a more substantial break, overnight respite may be an option. More assisted-living facilities are offering short-term, overnight respite care as a service.
“Overnight respite can be planned in advance or occur in an emergency situation,” says
Kimberly Varner, admissions director of Jackson Ridge Rehabilitation and Care Center in Canal Fulton.
She notes overnight respite can “offer peace of mind, knowing that even in an emergency, your family member is in a CMS five-star-rated facility. Overnight respite can provide short-term help for caregivers who are struggling, perhaps with their own health issues.” Medicare or private insurance, in some situations, may cover overnight respite.
When dealing with the care needs of older adults, here are a few respite options to consider:
• Friends and family — Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. When friends or other family members offer their assistance, take them up on it. Sometimes we don’t want to burden other people, but set aside your pride, and if no one has offered, ask for help. You may be surprised how readily people are willing to lend a hand.
• Churches and synagogues — Many churches have volunteers who will provide visitation and/or help for older adults who are in need. You can contact your local church or synagogue directly or go online to fiaakron.org to explore the resources of the Interfaith Caregivers Program in the Akron area. This agency is a part of a nationwide interfaith volunteer caregiving program that brings together people of many faiths to help people with long-term health needs.
• The local Area Agency on Aging (AAoA) has the resources to help you determine what level of respite you and your family member may need, and will help you coordinate the referrals. The AAoA, a non-profit agency, is a resource for programs, services and information for older adults and their families. There are 12 Area Agencies in Ohio and you can find your local AAoA by going to ohioaging.org.
Take Care of Yourself
You are bound to experience stress at some point. The key is to recognize it and manage it. Here are some tips to help you:
• Pace yourself. Being a caregiver in the sandwich generation is a marathon, not a sprint. Constant levels of stress have detrimental effects to your physical and emotional health. You cannot take care of others if you become ill yourself.
• Set limits and have realistic expectations for yourself. You cannot be all things to everyone. It is OK to say “no” sometimes. It’s important to understand what you can and can’t do.
• Take time for yourself. Everyone needs to recharge now and then. Some people may think it seems “selfish,” but taking care of yourself will help you be a better caregiver to others.
Remember, being a caregiver can be a lot of work, but there is always help available. By accepting help and using respite care, you can make these years more meaningful for you and your family.