By Elizabeth Guttenberg, LCSW, Senior Care Advisor
Given that November is National Family Caregivers Month, I thought it might be fitting to focus this newsletter on respite care—something that every family caregiver will eventually need. Below I’ve provided answers to questions that frequently come up around this topic. I hope these will help you understand the value—indeed the necessity—of giving yourself a break from caregiving responsibilities when you need one.
- What exactly is respite care? Respite care means temporarily handing off routine responsibility for your loved one to another person or institution so that you can get some quality “me” time. Respite breaks can range anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks, depending upon your loved one’s condition and the options available to you. Low-cost, short-term respite care is probably available to you now, including assistance from friends, family members, neighbors or community volunteers. Private pay options for respite are also widely available. You can find a caregiver online at Care.com or go through a local home care agency. Many communities (such as assisted livings and nursing homes) also offer short-term stays for a fee.
- Do I need respite care? We all know that caring for a family member is stressful. Endless studies point to the emotional and physical tolls that caregiving can take. Yet in my work consulting with family caregivers, I encounter people every day who have trouble admitting that they need, or even deserve a break. Many offer concerns that: “Mom will miss me too much if I go away for the weekend,” or “I’m not sure anyone knows how to take care of my dad the way that I do.” However, in reality, avoiding breaks for these seemingly selfless reasons puts you at great risk for burnout, i.e., debilitating emotional and physical exhaustion that could prevent you from being there for your loved one when he or she most needs you. So remind yourself daily, or hourly if you need to: Respite isn’t selfish. It will actually make you the best caregiver that you can be. And you and your loved one will be happier and healthier for it.
- How can I incorporate respite into my daily routine? Taking breaks may not be easy for you, but anyone can schedule five minutes for themselves each day. So start there. Do what feels most comfortable. If your loved one can be safely left alone for a short period, go into another room and shut the door. Listen to music, call a friend, watch your favorite TV show—or even better, take a five-minute power nap! Schedule these mini-breaks ahead of time, and set a reminder on your phone. Ready for a longer break? Line up a trusted person to take over for a couple of hours so you can get back into an old hobby or return to that exercise class you used to enjoy. Go out to dinner with a friend or take the family pooch to the dog park. Go see a movie alone or treat yourself to a massage. Doing something for yourself even once a week can revitalize you enough to resume your caregiving responsibilities with the energy, patience, and compassion that your loved one deserves.
Contact a Senior Care Advisor at Care.com. We are master’s-level social workers specializing in adult and senior care.
Call us today at (855) 781-1303 x3 or email questions to email@example.com