Maybe it should not be surprising that family caregivers often have such a hard time seeking respite. For many caregivers, the role is essentially a fulltime job with no time clock to punch and no office or employee lounge to retreat to for a quick recharge. Caregivers may find times of peace or productivity throughout their days, but these “breaks” come only when they know a loved one is situated and safe.
In fact, the very definition of a caregiver is a person who prioritizes the needs of others above his/her own. Thus, many caregivers may view the idea of respite care as a gift that is better suited for somebody else.
Perhaps if we start looking at caregiver respite as less of a gift and more of a necessity, we can better honor the work that family caregivers put in each and every day. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 Report, 36% of the over 50 million unpaid caregivers in the United States note caregiver stress as a concern. If we can help connect these stressed friends and family members with the additional support they need—including regular respite opportunities—both the caregiver and the person they are caring for can reap the benefits. So, how can we help a caregiver in our lives?
Ask If They Need Caregiver Respite
Ask a caregiver you know if he/she would benefit from some time away from the responsibilities of caregiving. The person may wish to have a respite from the day-to-day challenges of caring for a loved one at home, but are unfamiliar with what respite actually entails. Or, the caregiver may know what it is but believe the concept of respite is not an option given the person’s individual situation. Whatever the answer may be, you have started the conversation by asking the question.
If you are the caregiver, ask yourself if you could use respite care? How would you use a regular, scheduled break from caregiving? Before you start considering how that would even work, think about what you would actually do with the time. How would you make use of a couple of hours away from the stresses of providing care? Would you rest, exercise, visit with friends, or take up a new hobby? Remember, there are no wrong answers, and this is not a selfish exercise. Taking time away from caregiving responsibilities to help yourself can only make you a better, more effective caregiver in the long run.
Tell Caregivers about Available Respite Programs
Tell the caregiver what you know. If you are reading this article, you are likely better versed than most about the resources and services available in your area for caregivers and their care recipients. Talk to the caregiver you know about what you have heard—perhaps another friend or coworker had a good experience with a respite program that could help?
While you are at it, connect the person with other caregivers you know who face similar challenges. Increase the person’s support network—even if it is through phone, email, or another form of technology – and keep him/her from feeling isolated. You can serve as the connector between caregivers and help them both feel like they have greater access to much-needed guidance and advice.
Show Caregivers What Respite Options Exist
Better yet, show them what you know. If there is a respite opportunity you learn about that could profoundly impact a caregiver’s journey, ask if you can bring the person in for a tour or trial session. Respite care can happen in the caregiver’s home, but there may be drop off programs happening in your area located in nearby community centers, churches, or senior care communities. Many programs are actually quite affordable, or in some cases even free of charge.
Lead the way, even if it means physically driving the caregiver and care recipient to see the program for themselves. If that is not possible, see if the program has a virtual tour or online information that outlines the program. Walk the caregiver through the options and help that person get all the information needed.
Help Caregivers Problem Solve
As mentioned before, caregivers often have a tendency to set aside personal wants and needs and instead focus their energy on the needs of others. Because of this, they may be resistive to putting the time and effort into finding and securing proper respite care. Sometimes, they just need a little more help.
You can be the person to help a caregiver overcome the obstacles in the way. Research transportation options if getting a loved one back and forth is proving to be a problem. If the respite program desired seems to be cost prohibitive, perhaps there is a volunteer program that can serve as an alternative? There may be grant money or other community funds available to offset the costs of respite care. Identify the caregiver’s objections and offer potential solutions.
If you are a caregiver and you have misgivings about your loved one taking part in a respite program, talk it through with the program coordinator or a case manager connected to the program. Understand that the stress that even the best caregivers feel from time-to-time can lead to caregiver burnout and become a serious issue. Remember, respite care is a necessity—and both you and your loved one receiving care deserve the gift of an occasional break.
Drop-Off Respite Program at St. John’s
Persons living with dementia and their caregivers in the Rochester and Finger Lakes area will have a new respite option available, conveniently located in the Highland Park neighborhood.
The respite program will be FREE for people living with dementia as long as potential participants qualify based on an initial application process. The program will be held at St. John’s Home, 150 Highland Avenue, Rochester, one day weekly on Thursdays, from 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Program participants will have the opportunity for social engagement with peers, musical concerts, wellness activities, virtual reality technology, games, community service projects, and more, while their caregivers get the respite they need from the demands of caregiving.
Interested caregivers can call 585-760-1505 to learn more about the program or review the program application online. Completed applications can be submitted to St. John’s Respite Coordinator by email.