Summer is typically a time when families think about a trip to the beach or mountains or plan some type of family get-away. Caregivers often don’t think of vacation at all. Many caregivers give up vacations and other activities because they feel the responsibility to be there for their loved ones. Caregiver stress and burnout are two real dangers that can impact your ability to care. Breaks are necessary for a caregiver’s continued health.
One of our favorite analogies for caregiver self-care is that it is much like the safety instructions you are given on the airplane in regard to the oxygen masks. If you are traveling with someone who relies on you for help, you should put your oxygen mask on first so you can help. Similarly, caregivers must take care of themselves in order to be healthy and have the energy to continue caregiving.
But, how do you take a break as a caregiver? One of the most important steps you can take early in your caregiving journey is to create a “care team” with other loved ones, friends, church members/neighbors and professional caregivers. Read more about how to create good care teams. If you have a care team in place, hopefully other members of your team can step in to give you breaks. Perhaps your brother can take vacation time to come in and stay with Mom while you take a break. Your loved one’s neighbors and friends can visit and give you time to get out for your yoga class. You can begin a relationship with a home caregiver who comes in weekly to stay with your loved one while you run errands and begin to feel more comfortable with that person coming at other times when you have a doctor’s appointment or lunch with a girlfriend.
Options abound for more formal respite care. Respite care can be provided in a variety of settings, and is designed as short-term care to provide a primary caregiver with rest or a break (respite). Respite care can be provided at home through home health agencies such as EasyLiving or in adult day care centers or assisted care facilities. Most respite care is not covered by insurance or Medicare, but some community programs offer financial assistance. Your Area Agency on Aging or a geriatric care manager can help identify options and resources. Perhaps if family members are unable to help you with direct care of your loved one, they will consider pitching in to cover costs for respite care.
If you would like for your loved one to remain in the familiar home environment, consider hiring a home care company such as EasyLiving for respite care. Establishing a relationship with a home care company also gives you a comfort level of having a trusted resource for any future needs as well. As you consider hiring a home care agency for respite care, here are some things to consider:
- Interview agencies to choose a quality, reputable provider. Read Five Tips for Choosing a Quality Home Health Provider.
- Understand the potential pitfalls of hiring privately or through a matching service. Especially if you are hiring respite care while you will be out of town, you will want to know there is supervision, backup care available and management accountability.
- Interview specific caregivers and ensure you feel comfortable with them, their experience, etc. Be prepared and share information on your loved one’s routine, history, likes/dislikes, etc. You may want to prepare a caregiver notebook with such information and for caregivers to make a small note about their time with your loved one.
- Give respite care a test run. It is best to look in to options in advance when you can, and perhaps do a limited trial run (have a caregiver stay while you run errands nearby for an hour, or even have someone shadow you and help you out during a day or while you rest at night).
- Organize your records to communicate necessary information to respite caregivers (medical history, doctors/providers, medication list/schedule, allergies, contact information, etc.).
- Consider establishing a relationship with a local geriatric care manager for times when you will be away. A care manager can act as your liaison and oversee things when you are out-of-town, as well as attend any medical appointments and manager urgent situations. Care managers can even be hired to help check in on loved ones in care facilities, filling in for you on oversight and management. Research options in advance to establish a relationship and determine what type of arrangement you will need to set up with the care manager.
Look for more summertime caregiver tips on our upcoming posts. We’ll be covering more tips on respite care, other ways home care may help this summer, and activity ideas for elder caregivers & families.