Knowing Your Limits
Caring for an aging loved one can be a rewarding experience. In many cases, it provides the opportunity to give back to someone who may have played an important part in your life, allowing for a genuine reconnection. Caring for a parent, in particular, can be especially valuable, as there is often a sense of things coming “full circle.”
However, even in the most ideal situations, caregiving can ultimately become a demanding job – one that’s taxing on the mind, body, and spirit. And for those who work a full-time job and have a family to take care of, assisting a loved one can add a great deal of stress. Many discover that, while initially rewarding, family caregiving can yield negative results in the long run. In fact, a recent study, conducted by the Stanford Center for Longevity and the Stanford University of Psychology Department, found that family caregivers are more likely to experience depression when caring for a severely ill loved one.
It seems only natural that family caregivers would desire a break, but we often push ourselves past reasonable limits, with the mentality of “I can do it all” and that anything less would be seen as a sign of weakness. In reality, asking for help is anything but selfish – and finding temporary relief, or respite care, can greatly benefit both parties. It can allow family caregivers to:
- Look at the caregiving situation from a different perspective
- Catch up with family and friends or even meet new people
- Focus on personal health and wellbeing
- Remain involved in hobbies or pastimes
- Find time for relaxation and personal comfort
- Run errands or take care of finances
- Return to the loved one with a renewed sense of purpose
Respite care allows seniors to still receive the appropriate level of care, even in the absence of a family caregiver. Additionally, seniors may feel as if they’re a burden on their loved ones, so having a care professional substitute can help reduce feelings of guilt.
There is no set protocol for getting respite care for an aging loved one, as it will always depend on the situation itself and the individuals involved. There are, however, certain things to consider, the first and most important of which is communication with your loved one. He or she should be apprised of not only the desire to find respite care, but also how much time will be needed, where you will be, and why you’re doing it in the first place. The discussion should ultimately reference the benefits listed above, and focus on the long-term goal of strengthening the relationship.
Cost is certainly a factor, and knowing the exact needs of your loved will dictate the level of expertise and skillset needed in his or her caregiver. Carefully assess what he or she requires on a daily basis, and communicate everything to the care providers you speak to. Organization is the other important factor. While relief from caregiving certainly will offer peace of mind, you’ll feel much better knowing who is watching your loved one and when. Similarly, you will want to keep family and friends updated so that they don’t needlessly worry about the loved one’s care situation and arrangements.
Caregiver support can come from other family members, friends, faith group volunteers, adult daycare centers, in-home care services, and residential facilities. While there are plenty of options to explore, it’s important to remember that what you choose should ultimately align with your loved one’s needs and your budget. No matter what, it will take careful planning and organization, but the benefits are invaluable – for both you and your loved one.