Being the primary caregiver for a loved one is a weighty responsibility. Not only are you responsible for their physical needs, but you often find yourself providing emotional support for your loved one.
Although you may feel that you are capable of doing it all, you don’t have to. There are several respite care options available to help you manage all of your caregiving responsibilities. How much help you accept, or how little varies according to your situation.
What is Respite Care?
Before we talk about what happens after respite care is no longer a viable option, let’s look at the types of respite care available. In general, respite care is a break from caregiving taken by the primary caregiver by having someone else shoulder those responsibilities for a time.
In-home respite care might include having someone come in and help your loved one dress, eat, take medications, bathe, exercise, get in and out of bed, and sit and talk. Since you know someone is there in case of emergency, you are freed up to take care of your other responsibilities or just enjoy some down-time.
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Group respite care is an option that is often available at community centers, adult day-care, and assisted-living facilities. These agencies might provide dance, art, exercise or music classes, group meals, entertainment, and socialization time.
You may be able to leave your loved one in good hands for a few hours or the entire day. Some places will even pick up and drop off your loved one. Again, this gives you a more flexible schedule and peace of mind for regular periods.
Many assisted living facilities offer short-term respite care, also known as short-term assisted living or residential respite care. These types of setups can provide day and night care for a few weeks. Trained staff will help with meals, medication, dressing, bathing, and exercise. There is also housekeeping, and there may be supervised outings, religious services, and hairstylists available.
Short-term respite care might be an excellent option after a medical procedure when you don’t have the skill to care for your loved one. You could also use this as an opportunity to take some time away from your primary caregiving responsibilities and relax or go on vacation. With a little time away, when you take up caregiving again, you’ll feel more refreshed and better able to cope.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
For a time, these respite options will help caregivers manage the incredibly high amount of stress that you experience. Taking advantage of the variety of respite care is key to preventing burnout.
So if your loved one has been attending group respite care, but you are unable to keep up the attention outside of those hours, then a short-term stay at a residential respite care facility might be enough for you to regain your equilibrium. On the other hand, we need to be realistic about the situation. If you are experiencing caregiver burnout, then it might be time to consider a long-term solution.
Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion that you may experience if you aren’t receiving the support you need. It could manifest itself through physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
Symptoms to look for:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling irritable
- Change in weight or appetite
- Change in sleep patterns
- Frequent illnesses
- Anger towards the person you are caring for
- Anger at yourself
- Physical exhaustion
- Feelings of guilt
Ways to Manage Caregiver Burnout
Caregiving for a loved one is a difficult endeavor even at the best of times. As much as you want to be able to be and do all things for this person, you need to acknowledge that it’s not possible. Being practical by accepting you need additional support is the first step to managing burnout.
Once you have come to terms with the fact that you need a break, then find that support. This might be in the form of caregiver support groups, talking to a professional therapist, or discussing the situation with a trusted friend or family member.
You might also incorporate more respite options in the daily care of your loved one. If your loved one attends a day facility, but you take care of all the other aspects of caregiving, consider hiring a housekeeper, set up a meals-on-wheels delivery, or hire an overnight nurse.
Educate yourself not only about the health condition of your loved one but also about additional support available in your area. Is short-term respite care in an assisted living facility an option? Is there a retirement complex that may be able to provide better care than what you can do now? Is there another caretaker in the area that you could swap responsibilities with? Does the medical facility provide to and from transportation service to appointments or treatment sessions?
At some point, you may have to come to terms with the fact that you are no longer able to maintain a quality level of care even with a support network. Although you might feel guilty about the situation, you also might be relieved that the burden of responsibility has lifted.
If your loved one is still able to live independently with the addition of necessary transportation, housekeeping, and medical services, then you might look into an independent living community. Assisted living facilities provide even more direct care, including bathing, dressing, and feeding. Skilled nursing facilities will have licensed medical personal on staff 24-hours a day to meet the needs of residents.
Continuing care retirement communities are another option for long-term care based on the changing needs of your loved one. What this means is that initially, service provided could be minimal, much like an independent living community. As your loved one ages or medical condition progresses, there will be more assistance available for daily activities and medical intervention without the need to move to a new facility.
Whatever long-term care option you choose, rest assured that you are not doing it for selfish reasons. One person is only ever able to provide so much physical and emotional care without experiencing burnout resulting in physical and mental illness. You certainly want to make sure that your loved one is receiving adequate care for as long as it is needed in a situation that is beneficial to all involved. Long-term care facilities are one way to ensure that after respite care is no longer enough.