What is respite care?
If you are currently in the role of caregiver, you understand how this role is about shifting your focus to make someone else’s needs the priority in your life. It is true that caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, however, depending on the level of care required, you may rarely be able to step outside of your supporting role. The very role of “caring” can take a physical, emotional and mental toll on your own well-being. And this can have negative consequences on both you and your loved one.
Respite care is about helping you maintain a healthy balance so that you can continue to enjoy your own quality of life. It is okay to need and want to take a break from the caregiving role. This break can be for a few hours, few days or even a week or more.
Respite care is a transferable service which means that it can be provided at home, in a seniors’ retirement community or a long-term care facility. Respite care means someone else will step in to fulfill your responsibilities. It is the next best thing to you being there.
This service can be customized to meet your needs; this means it can be all-encompassing such as a short-term stay in a long-term care home, or focussed on selected tasks such as:
- Personal care
- Meal preparation
- Light housekeeping
- Escorted trips for shopping, outings or appointments
Respite care allows you to recharge, reduce your stress and avoid caregiver burnout. It also enables you to spend time with other family members, take a vacation, or take the time you need to handle your own daily affairs. A break from the caregiver role also means that you may return to the role refreshed, with a positive outlook.
How do you know if you need respite care to assist you in your caregiver role?
- You simply need a break
- You want to take a holiday
- Your loved one is being moved into a seniors residence and you need to help with the transition
- Your loved one needs a change of pace or a break
If that list seems too self-serving, then here are some of the warning signs that indicate you need to take a break from your caregiver role:
- Lack of sleep from stress or from being “on call”
- Little or no physical exercise
- Social isolation
- Financial stress from missing work due to personal health or a need to tend to your loved one
- Burnout as caregiving becomes more demanding and, possibly, 24/7
- Depression, frustration and resentment of the situation
For the over 28% of Canadians caring for a loved one, respite care allows them to take a break from caregiving. Respite care lets family caregivers recharge, ease their stress and avoid caregiver burnout. Providing assistance to the caregiver allows them to stay healthy, resulting in improved quality of the time they spend with their loved one.
Ways how your loved one can benefit from respite care:
- Cognitive stimulation with art or music programs
- Interaction with other seniors
- A change of scenery
- An assessment by a healthcare professional
- A change of pace, and face, from their regular routine
Whether it’s for a few hours, a few days or even a week, respite care can provide caregivers with an extra hand or with some time off to take care of themselves. Respite care can improve the long-term functioning of both the caregiver and the person receiving care as well as prevent crisis situations, including elder abuse.
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