Caregiving for a senior loved one can be physically and emotionally exhausting, especially for those with progressing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Seeking support and maintaining one’s health is key to managing this caregiver role. Many feel selfish trying to carve out time for their own personal lives, but noticing when you feel overwhelmed and at times, on edge, are signs that you need a break to recharge your batteries. Respite care is an excellent option for people who have stepped into this caregiving role, as it allows for temporary relief enabling a much needed break from the demands of caring for a sick and aging family member.

Types of Respite Care 

Respite care can come in many forms, but the idea is typically divided into two basic concepts: care in a facility, which typically requires a 30-day stay, or care in an individual’s own surroundings, which can be for a shorter period of time. There are benefits to both.

Respite care can provide several benefits for older adults in an assisted living community, including:

  1. Relief for Caregivers: Respite care provides temporary relief for caregivers who may be feeling overwhelmed or burnt out from caring for an older adult. It can be a much-needed break for caregivers to rest, recharge, and attend to their own needs.
  2. Social Interaction: Respite care can provide opportunities for social interaction and engagement for older adults. This can help prevent social isolation and improve their mental and emotional well-being.
  3. Access to Professional Care: Respite care can give older adults access to professional care that they may not receive on a regular basis. This can include medical attention, therapy, or other specialized services.
  4. Safety and Security: Respite care can provide a safe and secure environment for older adults, especially if they have health or mobility issues. Assisted living communities are equipped to handle emergencies and provide round-the-clock care.
  5. Trial Period for Assisted Living: Respite care can also serve as a trial period for older adults who are considering moving into an assisted living community. It can give them a chance to experience the community and its amenities before making a long-term commitment.

Respite care at home with a private caregiver can also provide several benefits, including:

  1. Familiarity and Comfort: Respite care at home can allow older adults to receive care in the familiar surroundings of their own home, which can provide a greater sense of comfort and security.
  2. Personalized Care: Respite care with a private caregiver can be tailored to the specific needs of the older adult. Caregivers can provide individualized attention, such as medication management, assistance with activities of daily living, and companionship.
  3. Flexibility: Respite care with a private caregiver can be flexible to fit the needs and schedule of the older adult and their family. Caregivers can provide care for a few hours a day, overnight, or for extended periods of time, depending on the needs of the family. This can allow family members to attend to their own needs or go on vacation, while still ensuring that their loved one is receiving the necessary care.

When to Seek Respite Care

Handing over the responsibility of caregiving is not an easy thing for many people, and although it may seem obvious when a caregiver is burnt out, many avoid seeking resources. Oftentimes, caregivers feel like their daily caregiving routine is too complicated to relay to someone else, or they’re overridden with guilt behind the thought. It’s okay to have these thoughts and feelings, but it’s important to recognize when caregiving has affected your mental or physical health. Ask yourself these: “Am I neglecting my person and social life?”, “Am I physically exhausted?”, “Do I feel more irritable?” , “Am I providing quality care?” Think about how you responded to these, and consider how life would be with an extra set of hands to provide temporary relief.

A beautiful aspect of seeking respite care, is that it allows for a fresh set of eyes to influence the level of care your loved one is receiving. Seeking respite care from others who have previous experience or professional training can bring a new perspective to the daily routine you’ve been handling, and may offer tips on different ways to handle certain caregiving tasks. However you see yourself benefitting from respite care, it’s important to remember that it gives caregivers a well-deserved break, and is an integral part of the caregiving process for both you, and the person in your care.