Respite Care: Temporary Care for the Caregiver

Published In Caregiver Support

Caregivers are a huge help to the elderly. They provide comfort, companionship, and assistance with activities that range from eating and bathing to cleaning and cooking. Caregivers take care of seniors, but to do that effectively, they need to take care of themselves.

Being a caregiver is a draining and demanding job. Professional caregivers can take vacation time to rest and recharge, but family members who care for elderly parents and grandparents too often neglect their own needs. Their unflagging devotion creates the risk that they will experience unmanageable stress, exhaustion, or depression. Fatigue can lead to mistakes when caregivers measure medication or fail to exercise caution when lifting a senior. It can also lead to irritability and a strained relationship with the senior and with other family members.

Respite care provides a solution for family caregivers who might otherwise become overwhelmed. Respite care allows a caregiver to take a break while another caregiver tends to the senior’s needs.

Different kinds of respite care are often available within a community. Some respite caregivers come to the senior’s residence. Other organizations provide a place where caregivers can bring a senior for a few hours. Caregivers owe it to themselves to explore those options. Careful research and planning is the key to selecting the right respite opportunity.

Volunteer Respite Caregivers

One respite care option is to find someone who will come to the senior’s residence and take the caregiver’s place on a regular basis. The respite caregiver might come for a full day once or twice a week or for a few hours every day. The visit should be long enough to provide the caregiver with meaningful downtime — time to relax, to refresh the mind, to take care of the caregiver’s own needs while feeling reassured that parents or grandparents are in good hands.

Respite caregivers might be available within a family. Family members who understand and appreciate the burden of caregiving may be able to help out on a regular basis. It never hurts to ask other family members whether they are willing to share some of the responsibility of caregiving.

If other family members are unwilling or unavailable, you might be able to find a volunteer respite caregiver within your community. Organizations that belong to the National Volunteer Caregiving Network may be able to provide a caregiver who will come into the senior’s home regularly, providing the senior’s caregiver a chance to take some time away from the burdens and responsibilities of caregiving.

Alert: Volunteer caregivers may not have the same level of training as a certified home health aide. They may be able to offer companionship, prepare meals, or do light cleaning, but they might not be trained to help a senior take a bath or to move about the home safely. You should determine what skills a volunteer has before deciding how much time the volunteer can safely spend caring for your loved one.

Paid Services

A homemaker and home health aide service can make a respite caregiver available on an hourly basis. Most (but not all) services require their home health aides to be trained and certified.

Respite caregivers provided by a homemaker and health aide service give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your senior is in the hands of someone who is trained to perform the tasks required of a caregiver. The downside is that you must pay for those services. A typical cost is $20 per hour but different services may charge fees that range from half to nearly double that amount. It pays to shop around, comparing services, qualifications, and prices.

Adult Day Care Programs

Adult day care centers offer caregivers the opportunity to drop off a senior at a caregiving location during the day. They are a good solution for caregivers who need a break and for those who have jobs that make it impossible to act as a full-time caregiver.

Adult social day care programs give seniors the benefit of companionship and allow participation in social activities. The programs generally offer at least one meal. Adult health day care programs provide assistance to seniors who have healthcare needs but who do not need to be in a nursing home.

Adult day care centers are regulated by state law. Those regulations differ from state to state. Many states have Adult Day Services Associations that can provide you with more information about regulations that apply in your state, as well as contact information for adult day care centers in your community. The website of the National Adult Day Services Association has a helpful site visit checklist that will help you choose the center that is right for you.

Depending on the nature and location of the program, the services provided, and the number of hours that the senior will take advantage of the services, the cost of an adult day care program may range from $35 to $156 per day. The average daily cost is about $78. In most cases, Medicare and private health insurance will not pay that expense. However, a senior who has long-term care insurance may have insurance benefits that will cover some or all of the cost of adult day care. Seniors with limited financial resources may also be entitled to receive assistance from state Medicaid waiver programs, although each state has its own rules about the kind of adult day care services that the program covers.

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