Respite Care Arms Family Caregivers

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How Respite Care Empowered My Family

By Clare Absher RN, BSN

“I was honored to care for my adorable and charming late husband of 32 years during his struggle with a terminal illness. As his nurse, I tended to his personal care and comfort requirements. As his confidant, my focus was on his emotional and spiritual needs. I recognized that assuming this role of family caregiver and attending to his needs offered him a sense of ease and reassurance. However, make no mistake that I was extremely grateful for relief and support that came my way during this difficult time. Weekly meals delivered to our home from a local church, medical supplies picked up by friends, and transportation assistance to doctor appointments by neighbors afforded me some “downtime”. My girlfriends on occasion would help re-energize me with a lunch out or a shopping excursion. My grown children moved home to assist with all aspects of caregiving that was invaluable to their father’s emotional well-being. I found this positive support and relief known as respite to re-charge and revitalize all of us. Respite empowered my family with the strength and resolve to render the most ideal care to our very special loved one.”

Why Respite Care for Your Family?

As a home health agency, we encounter many families that juggle caregiving tasks; some with success and others with disappointment. Frustration and exhaustion are common among caregivers who are control enthusiasts, micromanagers and those simply not willing to delegate care. When unable to relinquish the reins and allocate caregiving duties, these caregivers quickly become discouraged and set themselves up for failure. The famous quote “You can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself” is especially true for family caregivers. Small acts of kindness from thoughtful friends and neighbors can make the biggest impact in your caregiving experience. This is why I encourage families to welcome and accept respite care in all of it’s forms.

How to Find Respite Care

Typically, the easiest way to find respite is by word of mouth and asking those closest to you (such as family members and friends) for help. Remember that often folks are sincere in wanting to help but unsure how to offer their services. Invite your sister to spend an evening each week with your mom to give you some alone time. Be sure to take time to handle your own personal needs while well-meaning friends come for a visit. Ask your church pastor to recruit eager fellow parishioners to organize and prepare weekly meals, or solicit helpful neighbors to pick up groceries. Be sure to have specific tasks in mind to assign for those willing to free you up for some guilt-free personal time.

Hiring a professional caregiver, whether privately or through a home care agency, frequently is the wisest choice for respite care. This form of respite allows family caregivers to depend on friends and family for more important, personal responsibilities without taxing them with menial tasks. For example, you might want to hire a nurse aid to perform routine personal care, night-time safety monitoring or on weekends for sitting with your loved one. Your family might be more supportive with emotional needs of your loved one and helping with important medical decisions. Calling upon family members is another very sensible choice to allow for well-deserved vacations.

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