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When Should You Take a Break From Caregiving?

You may need respite care to keep from getting burned out

Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

(Editor’s note: This is the 13th in the Next Avenue “When Should You… “series on aging milestones for parents or loved ones. With our partners at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, we address common caregiving concerns.)

Has caregiving left you physically drained, mentally exhausted and spiritually numb? Are you feeling isolated, depressed and angry?

If so, you are experiencing the major red flags that you need a break from caregiving’s demands and responsibilities.

“Unlike the Energizer™ bunny — it goes and goes and goes — caregivers’ batteries do run down,” says Elisha Beard, the supportive services coordinator for the Adult Day Program at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. “And when they do, caregivers need respite.”

What Is Respite?

Respite is a break — not a full stop — in caregiving, says Beard, who is also a licensed social worker and dementia care specialist.

Finding respite providers and services is fairly easy. Paying for respite, on the other hand, can be challenging.

“It gives caregivers the chance to relax, rejuvenate and recharge their batteries,” she says. “It gives them time to re-evaluate their situation, and re-identify as the caregiver they want to be.”

There are two types of respite: in-home and facility-based. Both work, says Beard, so it’s up to the individual caregiver to “figure out which type works best for them.”

In-Home Respite

In-home respite brings services (such as delivered meals or cleaning) and care providers (such as companions or personal care assistance) into the home. Sometimes it’s unpaid care provided by family members, friends, people from the person’s congregation or social organization or volunteers “placed” though government-funded programs (such as RSVP or Senior Companions) or other programs, such as Volunteer Match, Catholic Volunteer Network, or LotsaHelpingHands.

Paid in-home respite can be provided by a family member, but it’s usually provided by a home care assistant hired through an agency. And, it is usually scheduled: for example, four hours a day, two days a week.

“A major benefit of in-home respite is that the person being cared for is in a place they know and feel safe in,” says Beard.

Facility-Based Respite

Facility-based respite is provided away from home. It can be provided in adult day programs, which provide safe, supportive and stimulating care during the day. Or it can be provided in residential care facilities that offer respite care, such as nursing homes or dementia care facilities. They provide the services and supports found in day programs and may also provide overnight accommodations and care.

Finding Respite Care

To find respite providers, talk to a member of your clergy; the Caregiver Support Program coordinator at your region’s Area Agency on Aging; the human resources director where you work; discharge planners at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities or the coordinator at your community senior center. In addition, the ARCH National Respite Network can point you toward resources in your area.

Paying for Respite

Finding respite providers and services is fairly easy. Paying for respite, on the other hand, can be challenging. The only insurance that covers respite is long-term care insurance.

For those who qualify, funding or reimbursement for respite may be available through Medicaid, the Veterans’ Affairs Caregiver Support Program and Title III of the Older Americans Act.

Now Is the Time

You may think respite is something you will never need, but the reality of caregiving is that things change — often without warning.

“Don’t wait for a crisis,” advises Beard. “Start getting info now, and a good place to do that is in a support group.”

Other Sources for Information

You can find more information in The ABCs of Respite or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Geriatrics and Extended Care Guide.

Or call this Veterans Affairs caregiver support hotline: 855-260-3274.

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