More and more seniors are finding themselves in the unexpected role of primary caregiver. Many are not aware that there is relief available from the ever-present grind of being a caregiver through respite care.
Senior respite care – sometimes called senior daycare – is short-term or temporary care that allows a caregiver some time off from caregiving duties. Respite care allows a caregiver to rest, recharge, and take care of tasks they may have been putting off.
We do not age at the same pace. Seniors often end up being the primary caregiver for their loved one. Being a primary caregiver can be extremely challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally. While taking care of our significant other, caregivers often fail to take care of themselves. The cost of caregiving is high. According to the Centers for Disease Control, caregivers often pay a high toll for their labor of love:
- 35% of caregivers have difficulty finding time for themselves
- 29% experience emotional and physical stress from their role
- 54% said their health has gotten worse due to caregiving
- 29% have difficulty balancing family and work responsibilities
- 1 Questions about senior respite care
- 2 What are the benefits of senior respite care?
- 3 Sources of help for caregivers
- 4 Types of respite care?
- 5 How long is respite care?
- 6 How much does senior respite care cost?
- 7 Who pays for respite care?
- 8 How to find senior respite care?
- 9 What about an online support group?
- 10 A personal note
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 We would love to hear your thoughts
Questions about senior respite care
If you are new to the concept of respite care, your mind is probably full of questions. Following are answers to some of the basic respite care questions you might have.
What are the benefits of senior respite care?
The benefits of senior respite care are many. Among them are:
- Renewal and relaxation: Renewal and relaxation through senior respite care is good for the caregiver’s health. Taking a walk, visiting a museum, going to a movie, or even taking care of long-delayed tasks can improve your mood and decrease your heart rate.
- Space: Sometimes caregivers have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Your caregiver role can be so all-consuming that the walls may start to close in around you. An hour or two of senior respite care on a regular basis will expand your space and improve your attitude.
- Energy: It is difficult to be effective in any aspect of your life if your caregiver role drains you of your innate natural energy and enthusiasm. It is hard to start a car with a dead battery. A caregiver needs to recharge theirs regularly.
- Pleasure: Even though you are a primary caregiver, you have a right to enjoy life. You have no reason to feel guilty if you take a break.
- Identity: Many caregivers lose themselves in their role as caregivers. That is not healthy mentally or physically. You must be purposeful in maintaining your sense of self. You are important, too.
- Perspective: Time away allows you to keep things in a proper perspective and see things more clearly. You might even think of a better way to do things or resources you can utilize to lighten the load.
- Engagement: Social isolation can be devastating for caregivers. Time to engage with friends or go to lunch is an investment in your own sanity. Do whatever gives you personal enjoyment.
- Life: Without being melodramatic, routine senior respite care for a loved one may literally mean life itself – for the caregiver.
Sources of help for caregivers
First, make your needs known. From personal experience I know that many caregivers suffer in silence. Help can come from four different directions:
- Friends and family
- Health care provider
- Nonprofit organizations
- Government agencies
Friends and family
Here are some suggestions for getting help from people you know.
- Identify a caregiving task or a block of time that you would like help with. Perhaps there’s a book club meeting you’d like to go to that you’ve been missing because of your caregiving responsibilities. Be ready when someone says, “What can I do to help?” with a specific time or task, such as, “It would be really helpful for me if you could stay with Mom Tuesday night so I can go to my book club for 2 hours.”
- Be understanding if you are turned down. The person may not be able to help with that specific request, but they may be able to help another time. Don’t be afraid to ask again.
- If you have trouble asking for help face to face, try writing an e-mail to your friends and family members about your needs. Set up a shared online calendar or scheduling tool where people can sign up to provide you with regular respite.
Health Care Provider
Does your doctor know you are a caregiver? You have special needs as a caregiver that your doctor should be aware of. Be sure to let your doctor know if your caregiving responsibilities are making you feel depressed or anxious. Health care professionals may also know about support groups offered in the community.
Let your doctor (or your care recipient’s doctor) know that you need help finding respite care. A doctor may be able to write you a “prescription” for respite services via Medicare’s PACE program. PACE services are available to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in some states.
Organizations that advocate for people with specific diseases often offer respite care for primary care givers. If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer, or lung disease, respite care services may be available from the following organizations.
Types of respite care?
Senior respite care can come from many sources. Among them are friends, family or professional providers. In general, professional senior respite care can be either in home or in-facility.
How long is respite care?
Respite care can vary anywhere a few hours to a few days or even a few weeks depending on the needs of the caregiver.
How much does senior respite care cost?
Senior respite care cost will obviously vary by location.
Many nursing homes, retirement communities, and assisted living facilities offer short-term respite stays, either on an hourly, half-day, full-day, overnight or extended basis. The cost averages $100 to $250 per day, depending on what level of care is needed. Senior Advisor will help you compare up to 39 facilities near you.
Who pays for respite care?
Original Medicare may cover short-term respite care for up to 5 consecutive days. To be covered, the respite care will need to be provided in a Medicare-approved facility such as a hospice facility, hospital, or a nursing home. You can read about Medicare hospice care, click here. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospice-care
If your loved one does not qualify for hospice care, you will be required to pay for the respite care out of your own pocket.
How to find senior respite care?
National Respite Locator This resource can help you find care and other respite services.
What about an online support group?
Consider joining an online support group. It’s important for you to have an opportunity to share your experiences with others in similar circumstances and to get support and new resources from them.
The Caregiver-online support group is an unmoderated group for families, partners, and other caregivers of adults with disorders such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, brain injury, and other chronic debilitating health conditions. The group offers a safe place to discuss the stresses, challenges, and rewards of providing care for another.
A personal note
Allow me a personal observation. I was the primary caregiver for my wife for over 15 years as she wound down from Multiple Sclerosis. She was diagnosed just a few years after we were married. We almost made 40 years before she just wore out. The most dangerous words you will utter are, “I can handle it.” If you hear yourself saying those words, it might be time to rethink your circumstances. I do not know if it was pride or a desire for privacy or whatever, but it was hard to accept help. We had always been the “helpers.” It was hard to transition to being helped. Your life and the life of your loved one will both be better if you can overcome your reluctance.
Not all respite care providers are created equal. Do your homework to find a senior respite provider you trust, and then build an on-going relationship with them. It will make things easier for you.
Give yourself a break! Literally. You do not have to do this alone. There is no need to feel guilty. You are not the first to walk in these steps. Learn from those who have gone on ahead of you. Calendar specific times to get respite care. There is help available.
We would love to hear your thoughts
If you have additional questions, comments, or would even like to share your own experiences, please leave them in the comments below.