Respite Care: What Caregivers Need Most
A caregiver is anyone who provides basic assistance and care for someone who is frail, disabled or ill and needs help. Most people will become caregivers-or need one- at some point in their lives. For some people, caregiving occurs gradually over time. For others, it can happen overnight.
Many family members and friends do not consider such assistance "caregiving", since they are just doing what comes naturally to them: "helping and taking care of someone they love". But that care may be required for months or years, and may take an emotional, physical and financial toll on caregiving families.
Family caregivers perform a wide variety of tasks to assist someone else in his or her daily life, for example, balancing a checkbook, grocery shopping, assisting with doctor's appointments, giving medications, or helping someone to eat, take a bath or dress. Family caregivers of chronically ill older persons or those with disabilities are "on call" 24-hours a day, 7 days a week because they want to see their loved one remain in the comfort and security of their own environment. But at some point, everyone who is a caregiver needs a break, a rest, or a breather.
For the caregiver, respite care is specifically defined as substitute care or supervision of their loved one with a disabling condition, allowing the caregiver a break from the stressors of every day and a: "much needed break from their daily responsibilities".
Respite care can cover a wide range of services based upon the unique needs of the caregiver. It might involve medical or social adult day care and/or a short-term stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility for the loved one; a home health aide or home health companion; a private duty nurse or adult foster care.
The type of respite care varies according to the needs of each caregiver. For example, the caregiver may need a break to attend medical appointments, visit friends, take a walk, attend support groups or just to reenergize themselves.
Research has confirmed the benefits of Respite Care.
A paper compiled by Drs. Dale Lund and Scott Wright - experts in the field of caregiving analysis -- states that respite benefits both caregivers and their loved ones. It further states that to be most effective, caregivers should consider accessing services early in their caregiving experience. Lund and Wright have found that caregivers need sufficient and regular amounts of respite, and it is important that the caregiver give sufficient thought as to how he or she wants to use that freed-up time, when and if it becomes available.
The U.S Administration on Aging, AoA, conducted a series of roundtable discussions with caregivers of older persons who have chronic illnesses or disabilities. These discussions were held in more than 30 cities across the United States, and allowed AoA to gain a more complete understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by families caring for their older relatives, and to obtain additional insights into the types of services and supports that would respond to the needs of these and other caregivers. It was clear after listening to these caregivers that respite is a necessity.
Here's what some of the caregivers told:
- "I took a vow when we got married 54 years ago, and I intend to carry it out. My only fear is that I will die from exhaustion before she does, and who will care for her then?" --Caregiver husband; Chicago, IL
- "It has been a challenge going through this alone. To be able to have someone help me ... for just one-half hour or one hour to put her [mother] in bed, or get her up in the morning ... this would be helpful. --Caregiver daughter; San Francisco, CA
- "Respite is my number one need. I've been caring for Mom for seven years ... in that time, I have had one vacation for three days." --Caregiver daughter; Milwaukee, WI
"Many caregivers experience immense stress and feelings of burden, high rates of depression, and feelings of anger and anxiety" - Many caregivers noted hardships and problems including physical and mental strain and feeling burned out or overwhelmed. Some felt they did not have enough time or energy to meet the demands facing them and that caregiving takes away from their personal lives.
"Caregiving can adversely affect one's physical health and ability to continue providing care - leaving two impaired persons, rather than one."
Researchers have suggested that Respite Care can relieve the burden of the caregiving situation and allow families to continue to care for loved ones who would otherwise be placed in a nursing home. In San Diego County there is help available for caregivers. The Legacy Corps"Breakers" Program is a partnership with Aging and Independence Services, the University of Maryland Legacy Corps Program, AmeriCorps and New Alternatives Inc. This free respite care program pairs seniors and youth together as Intergenerational Service Teams to provide much needed relief for caregivers. The program currently accepting applications for seniors, youth and caregivers in need of services. Both seniors and teen will receive $200 a month to cover expenses. For more information, please contact Jhon Scholte, Program Director at 619-253-5155
This article is for community education about the respite care resources available for family caregivers in San Diego California in support for Aging and Independence Services County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency campaign and the San Diego Caregivers Coalition. The information is an excerpted, in part, from the Fact Sheet: "Respite: What Caregivers Need Most" made by the U. S. Administration on Aging. For more information about the AoA, please contact: U.S. Administration on Aging Department of Health and Human Services. Phone: 202 619-0724 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aoa.gov
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