Respites: A Caregiver’s Soul-Saver

Sometimes the most useful thing you can do as the caregiver for a loved one is to give yourself a break from the daily stress that comes with the role. Whether it’s taking a short-term break from the grind while a family member or friend steps in to help, or a multi-day vacation from your worries, there are several options for caregiver respites that can be true sanity-savers.

The next time you feel yourself longing for a temporary reprieve from your caregiver responsibilities, consider the following potential solutions:

Family and Friends

There are numerous advantages to calling upon friends and family for help. Those who are close to you may be familiar with your struggles, so it will be easier to ask them for help when seeking caregiver respites. They’ll also potentially be good temporary visitors/caregivers, since they may have a personal connection with the person they’ll be looking after.

What will it cost you? Likely not much, however it’s nice to reciprocate somehow, whether it’s a gift, a meal or a favor in return. Ask the person you are caring for if there’s someone they miss and would like to see more, and factor that into your strategy. Explain to potential helpers what is need and then devise a clear, confirmed schedule.

Companion Care

In various situations there may be an elderly companion who is available to help, particularly with household chores like laundry, cooking, shopping, etc., while providing important companionship for your loved one while enabling caregiver respites for you. These services may be offered for free on a volunteer basis, or may be a paid hourly service arranged through an in-home care agency. There may be public assistance options like Medicaid available to help cover costs.

When it comes to finding companion care, there are many options available. Word-of-mouth recommendations are especially helpful, so ask around. You can also search online for in-home care agencies, which can be very useful. Consider placing an ad in your local newspaper or online, and/or reach out to local high school counselors in your town to find help recruiting students, who may be in search of community service hours.

Your local Meals on Wheels program, in addition to its meal services, may also offer outreach services, like its Friendly Visitor Program. And finally, your local Area Agency on Aging may also be able to help point you in the right direction.

Personal Care Assistant

Personal care assistants can perform the light household chores of a companion care person, but will also help with grooming tasks like shaving, bathing, dressing and using the toilet, freeing up time for you to enjoy caregiver respites. They are not medical service providers, but they can help with administering medications, and may potentially move patients with mobility problems, provided they are trained to provide that service.

Costs for this type of assistance may range from $15 to $40 per hour for occasional help, or $120 to $200 per day for long-term, live-in assistance. Your local in-home care agencies will be able to help connect you with providers.

Adult Day Services

Another source of caregiver respites are adult day services, or adult daycare, which may include health monitoring, exercise, social activities, transportation (typically door to door), meals and various other support services. The programs may be administered at hospitals, churches, nursing homes, senior centers and standalone facilities. Costs range from $25 to $150 per day for licensed providers, however many accept Medicaid and other forms of health insurance, and/or may offer sliding-scale fees based on income.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals, and then contact and tour potential facilities in advance, to make sure the provider is a good fit for your loved one’s (and your) needs.

Assisted Living Respite Care

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities near you may offer temporary accommodations for elderly persons who require help with day-to-day tasks, enabling caregiver respites for the dementia sufferer’s full-time caregivers. The person may stay for as little as a half-day, or as long as several weeks. In addition to providing caregivers with the assurance that their loved one will be well cared for in their absence, it also offers a convenient way to experience facilities that may be a good option for long-term care in the future.

Respite stays may be available in hourly, half-day, full-day, overnight, weekly or extended increments. These services may cost $100 to $250 per day, depending on the level of care the guest requires, and there may be minimum or maximum lengths of stay to consider. Search online or in your local newspaper and/or phone book for nearby centers and call and/or email to inquire about availability. You may also contact your local Area Agency on Aging for referrals.

Caregiver Co-Op

This is a community-based solution in which multiple caregivers form a co-op in which members take turns helping one another out, while also gaining time off while others care for your loved one in return. A co-op also offers the dual advantage of strengthening a caregiver’s personal support system and sense of community. There’s generally no charge; just a commitment to reciprocating.

To get the ball rolling, ask friends, family and neighbors if they’d like to participate, then designate a central person to organize the scheduling. Or, there may already be a co-op in place nearby; check with your local senior center and/or adult daycare service providers.

Respite Locator Service

A good source for finding respite services in your area is the National Respite Locator Service, which will help match your needs with services for both emergency and planned respite care. The locator service is free; costs for respite services themselves will vary. However, some 30 states offer help with funding local respite services, through Lifespan Respite Programs funded by the Administration on Aging. Visit the Respite Locator Service for more information.

Veteran’s Benefits

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) provides multiple programs and support for veterans caring for their spouses. These include adult daycare centers, home-based care, homemaker and home health aide programs, and respite care. These services are usually complimentary, or low-cost, and offered to qualified veterans and their families.

The VA offers veterans up to 30 days of respite care each year, at home or via temporary placement of a veteran at a VA community living center, a VA-contracted community residential care facility, or an adult daycare location. The VA’s home-based, primary care program can provide meal planning and preparation, medication management, nursing and social services, while its Skilled Home Care program provides similar care from licensed, non-VA medical professionals. In addition, the VA operates numerous adult day healthcare centers, usually open Monday through Friday.

To utilize these benefits, call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line, open Monday through Saturday at (855) 260-3274. Also, your local VA office will likely be staffed with licensed caregiver support coordinators who can help, too. You can research your local coordinator by inputting your zip code on the VA’s Help Near Home web page.

***For further information and assistance, call our Caregiver Support Line at 1-800-388-0199 or contact your local Care Navigator. We’re here to help!