Importance of Respite for Family Caregivers and How To Find It

Family caregivers often spend long hours caring for senior loved ones and their immediate family members but take little time to care for themselves.

Telling someone “care for yourself so you can care for others” is so much easier said than done for family caregivers, who struggle to find the time they need to finish everything that needs to be done each day.

It is all too easy, however, to put your own personal needs on the back burner or on the ‘I’ll get to it later’ list.

When was the last time you went to the doctor for yourself?

How about the beauty shop for a haircut, manicure, or pedicure?

When was the last time you went to a movie, ate in a restaurant, or had a date with your partner?

I hear you laughing – too long??

Family caregivers need the gift of time to not only complete essential household tasks but to care for their own needs.

How can you get back time?

Respite for Caregivers

Respite is a great way to get back time for family caregivers.

What is respite? Respite is planned or emergency temporary care provided for caregivers.

Respite programs provide planned short-term and time-limited breaks for families as well as a positive experience for the older adult.

Getting a break to care for yourself while caregiving is essential. You will need a hand with daily tasks or personal care needs for your senior loved one so that you can go to the doctor, get a haircut, take a nap, visit friends, or getaway on vacation.

There is no failure in seeking out respite care. Caring for yourself will help you be a better caregiver.

Where to Find Respite

There are many avenues to find a respite solution that fits both your senior’s needs and yours as a caregiver.

Whether you need daily, weekly, or occasional respite, you will be able to find the care you seek in most areas of the country.

Here are some opportunities for respite:

  • Family and friends – enlisting the help of family members or friends to help you do every day tasks that can relieve you to care for yourself. Perhaps they can help cook meals, take your senior to appointments, or just spend time with them while you get some rest.
  • Paid caregivers – hiring caregivers from a home health agency to provide support such as household chores, personal care, shopping, cooking, companionship, and other tasks can allow you to do things you may need to do, including remaining in the work force.
  • Day programs – senior centers can keep your loved one safe during the day, occupied with activities or learning something new. They are great places for socialization with their peers. Usually they serve a hot, nutritious meal and many provide transportation as well. There may be a fee for this program.
  • Disease specific (therapeutic) respite programs including dementia respite – these programs provide failure free activities, socialization and mental stimulation for people with dementia and give their caregivers a much needed break from caregiving. They may be run by faith-based organizations or other nonprofit groups to help support those challenged by dementia. A small fee for supplies and food is customary.
  • Retreat – how would you like a retreat specifically designed to nourish and refresh those who daily put loved ones’ needs first and give care on a daily basis? There is a place that has been offering caregiver respite and a way to look at your role with a new vision and a renewed commitment to continue in that role, but with a resolve to care for yourself at a deeper level. This particular retreat takes place in St. Francis Retreat Center at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, SC. 
  • Out of home respite care in a facility – an assisted living facility, memory care, long term care facility, or even a hospice house will provide short-term care in their facility for up to a week (or longer as needed). This care is paid for by the senior or their caregiver and not covered under Medicare. It could be a weekly or per diem charge.
  • Palliative or hospice care – if your senior qualifies for this medical program, they can provide in-home care services that will help relieve some of your duties. This is covered by Medicare or Medicaid if your senior is qualified.

Help Paying for Respite

For many seniors and caregivers, paying for respite may be out of reach, even if the fees are small.

If your senior didn’t set aside enough funds to cover their retirement, healthcare and cost of living as they age, they probably don’t have the money to pay for supports such as respite or other long term support services (LTSS).

Sometimes a long-term care insurance policy may cover some of the costs of in-home care when a doctor says it is necessary. You should check your senior’s policy if they have one and use the benefits for which they have been paying for years.

There may be respite vouchers available to family caregivers through the State Lifespan Respite Grantees. Funded by the Administration for Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services, State Lifespan Respite Programs or Projects are run by a designated state government lead agency, which works in collaboration with a state respite coalition and an Aging and Disability Resource Center Program/No Wrong Door System. The goal is supporting a statewide system of coordinated, community-based respite for family caregivers caring for individuals with special needs of all ages. Currently 37 states participate in the program. Here is a link to more information to help you access these services.

Some disease specific organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, also have respite funds available to eligible caregivers in the form of vouchers that can help with the cost of respite.

Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you locate other resources to help fund respite care so that you can continue to provide care for your senior loved one.

You can also see if there are more benefits for which your senior may be eligible to offset the costs of care through this government resource website.

Seniors who are veterans can apply for in-home support through the Veteran’s Administration. This is an often overlooked source of assistance that should be investigated for any veteran.

Benefits of Respite

The obvious benefit for respite care is that family caregivers can begin to find time to care for themselves. Getting a rest, caring for your own health needs, working, socializing with friends, and getting mental health breaks is good for caregivers and essential to continue to be an effective caregiver.

However, there are other benefits for our senior loved ones when family caregivers get the support they need.

Getting as much support for seniors can prolong the time spent living independently at home. This can delay when placement in a facility becomes the only safe option.

Caregivers can avoid the potential for neglect or even abuse of their senior loved ones when frustration, anger, and fatigue are remedied by help from others in the form of respite. Caregivers can display their emotions by yelling, striking out at seniors or neglecting their needs when fatigue sets in. A nap or walk can make a big difference when tempers flare.

Accepting respite is not a failure but a good decision for both caregivers and seniors receiving care.

Seeking the perfect solution or a combination of more than one will make a big difference in everyone’s life.