It’s a situation that healthcare providers and caregiver advocates see all the time: family caregivers who devote so much time and energy to taking care of loved ones that their own health declines. Helping a parent or spouse can be rewarding, but it’s also hard work. Research by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP found that “the longer a caregiver has been providing care, the more likely she or he is to report fair or poor health.” One way caregivers can protect their health is by using respite care to take regular breaks. Here are some of the reasons why family caregivers need regular respite care.
The most common types of respite care for regular breaks are professional in-home respite care and adult day programs at senior centers. There’s also residential respite care, provided by assisted living communities for a few days at a time, but in this article, we’re going to refer to in-home care and adult day programs because they’re the most affordable and practical options for frequent short breaks.
Take regular breaks for better health
Most family caregivers don’t have enough time to take care of their own health, according to a Dallas Morning News article and NAC data. More than 70 percent of NAC-surveyed caregivers said they aren’t keeping up with their own medical appointments and more than 60 percent admit to “poor eating habits.” If this sounds like you, a couple of hours of daily respite care in your parent’s home or a couple of days a week at adult day program can free up time for you to cook and eat healthy meals, visit your doctor, and exercise. Even a weekly break to have coffee or take a walk with a friend can lower your stress level to protect your health.
Build trust with a backup caregiver
Most family caregivers are deeply devoted to their loved ones and don’t want to trust their care to anyone else. But caregivers can get sick, need surgery, or have other family emergencies, too. In those situations, handing off care to someone else is easier if you already have a good relationship with respite caregivers you trust. Even if you feel you can handle everything now, it’s a good idea to try out a few respite-care options to see how you and your family like them. That way if you ever need backup care on short notice, you’ll know who to ask for help.
Give your loved ones a break, too
Caregivers sometimes feel they’re letting their parents or spouses down if they don’t handle all the care themselves, but there’s something else to consider. Sometimes your loved one may want a break, too. If you’re stressed and tired, your loved one probably knows it and may feel bad about it. Regular visits from a trusted caregiver not only give you a chance to nap or get out of the house, they also give your family member a fresh face to socialize with and something to look forward to each day or each week. Then you can resume your routine with both of you feeling refreshed and more relaxed.
Explore your respite-care options to protect your health and make caregiving easier on your whole family. You’ll find reviews of in-home care providers and information about adult day programs in major cities on SeniorAdvisor.com.