If you’re providing support for an older adult with health issues on an ongoing basis – a spouse, a parent, a close friend – you need to consider whether you’re getting enough of a break for yourself – a respite – from time to time.
The Oxford dictionary defines respite as “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult…”
And whether you choose to openly admit it or not, looking after someone for an extended period is not easy. It takes a toll on you in the long run.
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Why respite is important
You may believe that your own needs are secondary. Sure, you may feel tired or preoccupied at times, and yes, this may be putting a strain on other parts of your life, but who are you to complain?
You’re strong. You’ll get through this.
Besides, if you don’t support them, who else will?
The trouble is powering through will only work for so long. You may think you’re coping until one day a seemingly minor setback sends you into an emotional tailspin.
Numerous family caregivers describe these sorts of “straw that breaks the camel’s back” moments. It’s only after the fact that they truly understand the stress they’ve been under. And by then, their own health may be in jeopardy.
One way to prevent this from happening is to make sure you get regular opportunities to “recharge your batteries”. Time away from caregiving. Respite.
Respite periods can be as short as a few minutes to take a short walk or as long as a week or more to take a much-needed vacation.
Why you as a caregiver may not be getting enough respite
There may be any number of reasons you’re not getting enough respite:
- You don’t think you need it. You’re fine. You’ve got this. Anyway, who are you to complain? The person you’re supporting has much bigger problems than you. The thing to remember is that everyone needs to take a break once in a while. If you wait until you’re stressed out, it may already be too late. The trick is to build in periods of respite from the get-go.
- You don’t know where to get it. Where do you begin to look for respite? Does it even exist in your community? Chances are there’s some form of respite program available near you, either paid or volunteer. It might take the form of a weekly adult day program or social program. Or a short stay in a retirement community. Or a volunteer willing to spend time with the person you’re supporting. Don’t forget that friends, neighbors, and other family members can also lend a hand. It may just be a matter of asking them.
- You don’t trust others to do a good job. You’re worried that whoever steps in for you while you’re taking a break won’t do things right. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience in the past. While it’s true that people may not always live up to your expectations, it’s important not to take this as proof that there’s absolutely no one out there who can provide respite. It may take a few attempts before you find a person you’re comfortable with.
- You think it reflects badly on you or the person you’re supporting. You’re concerned that if you enroll the person you’re supporting in something like a day program it suggests they’ve deteriorating. Or it says you’re failing as a caregiver. In fact, they may actually thrive in a different environment or in the presence of someone new. Try to stay open to the benefits respite may bring not just to you but to the person you’re supporting.
- You don’t think the person you support will accept it. Maybe they’re resistant to the idea of having someone step in for you. Even if that’s so, that doesn’t mean you should give up on the idea of respite. It may be that they’ll come around if you give them enough time and ease them into things. But even if they continue to resist, you shouldn’t simply accept the status quo. The Caregiver Bill of Rights offers some perspective on this.
Taking the next step
Of course, if you’re busy providing care and support on top of all the other day-to-day responsibilities in your life, it may be hard to find the time to search for – or make plans to take advantage of – short-term care options for your loved one that would give you the respite you need. You may wonder whether it’s worth the effort. Rest assured, in the long run, it will be.
Respite care programs at Sinceri Senior Living
Sinceri Senior Living Communities understand that every individual requires different levels of care at varying points of their lives. We are dedicated to providing specialized care specifically tailored to each resident’s unique needs throughout the aging experience. In addition to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care levels of care, Sinceri offers respite care, a temporary relief for those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a community.
Respite care also allows an individual to live in a community for a short-term stay after being discharged from a hospital or skilled nursing facility, allowing additional assistance prior to returning home. We understand the importance of familiarity with one’s surroundings, so we go above and beyond to cultivate a family-like environment that provides them the ideal level of comfort before returning home.