What is Respite Care and How Do You Arrange It?
Whether you are caring for an aging parent, a special needs child or anyone in between, we can all agree that being a fulltime caregiver is exhausting. It's mentally, emotionally and physically draining. Between managing schedules, medication, appointments, cleaning and regular care, you may be drowning in the everyday shuffle of someone else life.
Just pushing through may feel like your only option, but neglecting your own self-care for too long can lead to depression, anxiety, and caregiver burnout.
That's where respite care can help. Respite care can be arranged for a few hours, a few days or even a few weeks. Care can be provided in your home, in a care center, other caregivers home or at an adult daycare center. There are several ways to arrange this.
The first is to reach out to an agency. The problem is that most private insurance agencies don't cover the cost of respite care. If you have Medicare or Medicaid they will usually offer to cover a percentage if not all of the cost for up to 5 days of care. Contact your insurance agent to discuss the possibility of them covering part of the cost.
The ARCH National Respite Locator Service can help you find services in your community. In addition, the Well Spouse Association offers support to the wives, husbands, and partners of chronically ill or disabled people and has a nationwide listing of local support groups. (Information gathered from the National Institute on Aging)
National Respite Locator Service
Well Spouse Association
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Your second option is to design a respite plan with your family and community. A lot of primary caregivers get stuck in the mindset that they have to do everything themselves. It's simply not true. Use the following steps to design a care plan that works for everyone involved.
Determine your needs.
Do you need help with getting your loved one to appointments? Do you need time for 4 hours a day twice a week to run errands and take care of yourself? Maybe you just need a night off once a week or the opportunity to hire someone to clean the house regularly. Figure out what schedule would be the most helpful for you. Be thorough.
Determine your loved one's needs. Do they need companionship? Physical Therapy? Someone to eat lunch with them and administer medication? List every need that they have throughout the day and be meticulous.
Call a meeting.
Cast a wide net when reaching out for help. Call on members of your church, community, family friends, and family members. Don't hesitate to include siblings or family members that live out of town. They can always join the conversation via speakerphone, Skype or video chat.
First, explain thoroughly what it is that you do to care for your loved one. You don't need to make it seem overwhelming or like a burden but don't hesitate to go into detail about how much work it is. This isn't the time to put on your superhero costume. Be vulnerable about your situation and how you feel.
Tell them what you need. A lot of people make broad offers to help, but because they don't know specifically what you need, nothing gets done. Have a list of things that would be helpful and the schedule you are hoping to achieve.
You may need to be flexible. If someone can commit to two hours but not four, accept the help and them look for someone else to cover the other two hours. It may feel like putting together a circus but it's worth the effort. With out of town family, maybe the can't commit to flying in more but they can pay for someone to clean the house every other week or a hired caregiver for a few hours at a time.
Once you've voiced your needs, give people time to consider how they can help you. Then, make it easy for them to jump in. There are several online schedulers specifically designed for these situations. When everyone is onboard, join a free online scheduler like Lotsa Helping Hands or CareCalendar that let you specify what you need so others can sign up to provide services. Use the notes feature to update news about your loved one’s condition.
Continue spreading the word and asking for the help you need. Don't let it fall off the radar. When you update the schedule send it out in an email to your list of helpers.
Lastly, actually leave! If you have someone to cover you, get out of the house. Leave a list of emergency numbers and everything your loved one needs and then try to shut out the stress of that part of your life and relax. You can see our list of low-cost self-care options here.
Have you ever tried Respite care for a loved one? What was your experience? Do you have a care plan with family members and your community? We would love to hear about how you're managing! Tell us in the comments here, or in our forum!