Posted ByJulia Quinn-Szcesuil
Understand your different respite care options when you need a break from caring for a loved one who is elderly or has special needs.
As a caregiver, you know taking a break makes you feel refreshed, but finding someone to take over your caregiving duties is sometimes overwhelming. Respite care comes in several forms, so families can find just the right situation for their needs. You can find someone to help in your or your loved one's home for a few hours or a facility that offers day or even overnight care. Some situations will match your needs better than others.
We asked Maggie Edgar, RN, MSW, and senior consultant with ARCH National Respite Network and Resources Center, Mary Stehle, a senior care advisor with Care.com, Dr. Dale Lund, author of "Respite Services: Enhancing the Quality of Daily Life for Caregivers and Care Receivers," and Kelli Davidson, author of "Taking Care of Mom and Dad - A Baby Boomers Resource Guide," for advice on finding respite care that suits your needs.
Decide What Care You Need
Finding respite care can be as simple as asking friends and family to help out, or as thorough as hiring a special needs caregiver or senior care aide, contacting a state agency or finding help thorough a local volunteer group, local councils on aging, senior center or your faith community, says Edgar.
You can have professional or informal help come to you or you can bring your loved one to a facility. Hired help can provide skilled medical care, but close friends can also give you time off and facilities also offer respite care. Day care, for a couple of hours or a full day, is provided in a facility with trained caregivers and is found through special needs organizations, assisted living facilities, local senior centers or even some hospitals. Generally, these centers offer social activity, but some offer health services (like blood pressure checks) as well.
Ask Family and Friends
The watchful eye and welcome company of a friend, family member or neighbor might be all your loved one requires while you're taking a few hours away from caregiving duties. The familiar surroundings of home often provide a level of comfort and familiarity to make your loved one more open to receiving care from someone else.
"I always encourage caregivers to take advantage of anyone who says, 'I'd like to help you,'" says Lund. Ask them to come over for an hour or two or to make a dinner, and don't be discouraged if they can't do it. If the timing is not right, maybe it will be eventually.
Find an Outside Provider
If you won't be depending on family and friends for the majority of respite care, choosing a provider is your next step. Some care providers are licensed, and if you choose to work with an agency, most will have a thorough background check. But not all respite workers are required to have a license, so interview candidates to find the right provider.
If your loved one needs a higher level of care, for example with dementia or a complex special need, you should hire someone with suitable training, advises Stehle, as the care needed is more extensive.
Once you post a job, interview your top three choices in person, then check your candidates' references and run a thorough background check (available through Care.com).
Combine Your Choices
Take advantage of all the types of respite care, says Edgar. "Mix it up a little. If you set it up right, you can get the most from respite care." Maybe family can help out on two days and day care can fill in another day. Your loved one might welcome the change of pace.
Find Out What Is Covered with Funding
In some states, you may be able to find overnight care respite programs, but the facility may be hours from your home. Investigate all options available to you. If you want to go on vacation and your respite care reimbursement pays for a short-term stay in a facility, for example, ask a few questions says Davidson, to ensure the best care possible.
Ask to see the last survey from the state's department of health to make sure they have a good record. Find out if your loved one would be in a private room or a shared room, so everyone knows what to expect.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is an award-winning freelance writer and a mom to two girls. She lives in Massachusetts and has written for local and national publications.