Why Respite Care Is Important To The Family Caregiver

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Taking care of an elderly family member can be both physically and emotionally draining on a caregiver.  If you ask a family caregiver, you will hear how hard it can be to care for a loved one full time.  According to the Center for Disease Control, caregivers pay a high price for their labors of love:

  • 35% of caregivers have difficulty finding time for themselves
  • 29% experience emotional and physical stress from their role
  • 54% said their own health has gotten worse due to caregiving
  • 29% have difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities

What is respite care?  Respite care provides short-term relief to a family caregiver who needs time off from caring for an ill or elderly loved one.  Whether respite care is utilized for a vacation, to run errands or see a movie, or just for a much-needed break, caregivers use this time off to recharge, regenerate, and avoid becoming burned out. The National Respite Network advises caregivers to take a break before they become overly stressed or tired.  “Respite will be most helpful if you use it before you become exhausted, isolated, or overwhelmed by your responsibilities.”  However, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, and the AARP, only 12% of family caregivers ever take advantage of respite care services.  All too often, family members are reluctant to admit that they need a break, and this is mostly out of guilt, because they feel as if they should be able to “do it all.”  Also, family caregivers are concerned about the financial impact respite care may have, if they do not have another family member or friend to take over while they are off.

Respite care can be just for a few hours, or for a few days, depending on the type of respite care that is desired.  It can be in the form of in-home care, where a private home-care agency is hired to care for the loved one while the family caregiver is running errands, or on vacation.  Respite can also be a temporary stay at an assisted living facility.  Another option is an adult daycare center.

Caregiving is demanding, but everyone needs a break.  Seeking help does not make you a failure.  Keep in mind that respite services will benefit you as the caregiver, because you will have a chance to rest, recharge and avoid burn out.  This in turn will benefit the loved one that you are caring for.

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