Q: My question has to do with respite care for a caregiver who is trying to do the whole job himself, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don’t think he understands that it is OK to ask for help nor does he know what type of help is available. He won’t listen to me, but he does read your column. Can you help?
A: Thank you for your letter. Everybody needs a break from a full-time job, and many times that is what caregiving takes, as you say, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
No one can continue at that pace without the stress of the job affecting their health and outlook. A refreshed caregiver, after a little time off, can look at the situation differently and in many ways even be a better caregiver.
Caregivers must realize they are not failures if they take advantage of outside services, if they admit the job is difficult or unpleasant or if they determine that the patient to be placed outside of the home.
Respite care is temporary care that gives the caregiver rest and relief by providing a break in their daily routine. It can be at home or elsewhere and can be as little as a few hours or all day. It can be occasional or on a regular basis.
Caregivers can become weary and tired. This is what is referred to as burnout. It can be very serious for the health of the caregiver and also prevent the caregiver from providing the proper care to their loved one.
Respite care helps both the caregiver and the patient. Respite care is available in a variety of ways from help in the home to temporary stays for the patient in a care facility.
Home care aides can provide personal care as well as housework and cooking services. They can also offer companionship to the patient. Home care can be provided one or more times a week depending on the need.
Adult day care centers are another way to obtain respite. These centers provide activities, meals, exercise and socialization. These services are available from one day a week to daily attendance.
Sometimes an overnight break is what is needed. Assisted care facilities can provide this type of care for a few days or a weekend to several weeks. The longer stay could allow the caregiver to take a short vacation.
Caregivers should also consider joining a support group. These groups provide emotional support and give the caregiver the knowledge that he or she is not alone; many others provide the same type of care. An exchange of problems and solutions can prove helpful in coping with new situations.
Family and friends can also provide relief for a few hours or a weekend. Sometimes churches or temples have volunteers who can provide short period breaks, so the caregiver can leave the house without taking the patient with them.
Remember it is very important for the caregiver to take good care of himself or herself. Caregivers should make sure they get enough rest and eat properly. If they don’t and they become ill then there really is a difficult situation: caring for two instead of one.