"Caregivers, you need to take care of yourselves."
You know that. You hear that and you read that all the time. The problem is, um, just how do you do that? Our elder(s) need you all the time. They can't afford to pay for in-home care. You don't even know where to start when it comes to taking care of yourself.
A partial answer is free respite care, provided by people who can sit with your elder while you have some free time. Unfortunately, finding respite care isn't always easy. If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the states with a State Respite Coalition, under the umbrella of the Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project, Inc., you are in luck. Many states are represented on this site, so please check there first.
Next, check with your county Social Services. I know in my area there have been government funds that have gone to waste because people didn't realize that our human services people had funding for respite care (not dependent on financial need) that people didn't know was available. You should also ask about Living At Home/ Block Nurse programs. You can go to the Elderberry Institute site for information. Many small communities have these programs and they are a Godsend.
You can check your state Web site under aging services, find a phone number and call for help. Ask if they know of any respite care programs. Also, RSVP, a senior volunteer program, has Senior Companions in many areas. Senior Companions are seniors in good health who are often wonderful company for elders at home, thus giving a break to the primary caregiver, and it's free.
Churches and synagogues often have volunteer groups. Ask your spiritual home if there is help available. If not, suggest they start a group. People don't need to be highly trained to just sit and visit with an elder, making sure they don't wander off or get hurt. Often, our elders enjoy the company of peers.
Which brings me to adult day services. This costs money, but is the ultimate in respite care for many people. I wrote about adult day care/services earlier. This can be a huge advantage, as the senior gets out with peers, has activities and exercise, and the caregiver has some time alone at home or to do something enjoyable. Of course, there is in-home care, as well, which I also wrote about. That, too, costs money, but when possible, it can provide much needed relief for the caregiver.
Often, our elders will fight the idea of someone else caring for them, even for a short time. And caregivers fall for it. This is where detaching with love is necessary for the caregiver. You need to take care of yourself, and if Dad isn't happy with your arrangements to be gone for a few hours, well, he'll just have to complain. As long as you have a responsible substitute, you need to leave the guilt at the door and go. It often happens that the elder will actually enjoy the break from you as much as you enjoy the break from them. They just don't like change, and besides, it's more fun to complain.
Please look into some of these options. What would happen to Mom and Dad if you got sick? I mean really sick? This happens far too often. And lack of self-care by the caregiver is often the reason. Also, a refreshed caregiver is a better caregiver. So, dig around a bit. There's likely some kind of respite care that you can take advantage of. It's good for everyone concerned, whether they admit it or not.
Published On: May 09, 2009