The number of family caregivers is on the rise. According to AARP, more than 53 million adults in the U.S. provide unpaid care to someone over the age of 50.
As the country continues to age, millions more people will take on the responsibility of caring for an elderly loved one.
While the rewards of caring for a loved one are many, so are the physical, emotional and economic burdens that go with it. Sadly, family caregivers often go unrecognized for the contribution they make, often at the expense of their own health, finances and well-being.
Family caregivers need support and resources to help them meet the care needs of their aging loved ones. A recent study revealed that only 30% of caregivers were asked by healthcare providers what they needed to care for their loved one. When they were probed further, they suggested that providers should provide information about respite care, caregiving services, financial assistance, transportation services and medication management resources.
As care managers, we assist with respite care, from as little as one or two days a week – up to 24-hour care. Our goal is to lighten the burden placed on families; guiding them through the process and solving any problems along the way.
Here are some of the ways respite care can benefit you, if you are a caregiver:
- You get to relax. Respite care can provide a necessary break during the day. The time can be used doing whatever it is that rejuvenates you or make you feel refreshed. Maybe it’s a walk in the neighborhood, visiting with a friend, going out to eat, or even taking a nap or reading a book.
- You get social engagement. You may get limited social interaction throughout the day, depending on the physical and mental capabilities of your loved one. Getting the chance to spend time with people your age or who have similar interests is valuable and enjoyable.
- You can gain peace of mind. Caring for another takes a lot of brain power. You are constantly on guard and on alert. Having someone you trust and who is willing to take responsibility (even for a short time) can do wonders for your emotional well- Everyone deserves a break sometimes! Imagine how enjoyable even mundane task like going to the grocery store could be without worrying about your loved one, or having to rush because you know you are “on the clock”.
- You can rediscover YOU. Taking care of someone full time can put you at risk of losing your sense of self and takes your attention away from other important people and things in your life. Getting time to step out of the caregiver role and into some of your own roles allows time to enjoy the things you love. This will make it easier to provide quality care when you return to your caregiving role. It may even allow you to gain a new sense of perspective for when you return to your caregiver role!
- It’s good for your health! Getting a break gives a good boost to your immune system!
Caregivers aren't the only ones to benefit from a little respite. Your loved one will benefit from new relationships and potential friendships, opportunities for growth and development, and an overall fun change of pace. Not to mention, the elevated care they are likely to receive with the return of their refreshed and rejuvenated favorite caregiver (YOU!)
The bottom line is that respite is good for everyone. It is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about wanting or needing. Caregiver burnout is real. Caregiver burnout exhausts your physical, mental, and emotional energy which can lead to resentment, illness and care that is just not up to par. Please don’t wait to see these negatives start creeping in. Do your research now and find a trusted respite care professional who is willing to walk beside you and to help navigate the journey you are on. When the time comes, you will be glad to have resources readily available to you!