It’s mid-summer and most people are busy with their vacations. What do you do when you’re the primary caregiver for your elderly parents? The article below, from the Department of Health and Human Services, outlines respite care options, which allow caregivers time to relax and recharge.
What is Respite Care?
Millions of Americans provide unpaid assistance each year to elderly family, friends, and neighbors to help them remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Sometimes these caregivers need time off to relax or take care of other responsibilities. This is where respite care can be helpful. It provides the -family caregivers with the break they need, and also ensures that their elderly loved one is still receiving the attention that he or she needs.
Respite care is not all the same. Respite can vary in time from part of a day to several weeks. Respite encompasses a wide variety of services including traditional home-based care, as well as adult day care, skilled nursing, home health, and short term institutional care. More specifically respite care may take any one of the following forms:
- Adult Day Care: These programs are designed to provide care and companionship for frail and disabled persons who need assistance or supervision during the day. The program offers relief to family members or caregivers and allows them the freedom to go to work, handle personal business or just relax while knowing their relative is well cared for and safe.
- Informal and Volunteer Respite Care: This is as simple as it sounds. It is accepting help from other family members, friends, neighbors, or church volunteers who offer to stay with the elderly individual while you go to the store or run other errands. Sometimes your local church group or area agency on aging (AAA) will even run a formal “Friendly Visitor Program” in which volunteers may be able to provide basic respite care, as well. Many communities have formed either Interfaith Caregiver or Faith in Action Programs where volunteers from faith-based communities are matched with caregivers to provide them with some relief.
- In-home respite care: Generally speaking, in-home respite care involves the following four types of services for the more impaired older person:
- Companion services to help the family caregiver supervise, entertain, or just visit with the senior when he or she is lonely and wants company.
- Homemaker services to assist with housekeeping chores, preparing meals, or shopping.
- Personal care services to help the aged individual bathe, get dressed, go to the bathroom, and/or exercise.
- Skilled care services to assist the family caregiver in tending to the senior’s medical needs, such as when administering medications.
How Do You Pay for Respite?
The cost of respite care varies with the type of agency and the services needed, but federal and/or state programs may help to pay for it. Long term care insurance policies may cover some of the cost of respite care. Your local AAA will have more information on whether financial assistance is available, depending on your situation and where you live.
Can the National Family Caregiver Support Program Offer Respite?
The enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 (Public Law 106-501) established an important program, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). Funds have been allocated to states to work in partnership with area agencies on aging and local and community service providers to put into place multi-faceted systems of support for family caregivers. A specific component of these systems is respite. That could include, for example, respite care provided in a home, an adult day-care program or over a weekend in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. For more information on the NFCSP visit the Administration on Aging website athttp://aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HCLTC/Caregiver/index.aspx.
How Can I Ensure that Respite Care is Quality Care?
When evaluating a respite care program, family members should check to see if it is licensed by the state where they live (where required) and if the caregivers have the qualifications necessary for the job. They can ask respite care program managers the following questions to assess their credentials:
- Are families limited to a certain number of hours for services needed?
- Can the provider take care of more than one person at a time?
- Can family members meet and interview the people who will be providing the respite care?
- Does the program provide transportation for the caregiver/senior?
- Does the program keep an active file on the senior’s medical condition and other needs? Is there a written care plan?
- How are the caregivers screened for their jobs?
- How are the caregivers trained? Do they receive extra training, where appropriate, to meet specific family needs?
- How are the caregivers supervised and evaluated?
- How much does the respite care cost? What is included in the fee?
- How far ahead of time do family members have to call to arrange services?
- How do the caregivers handle emergencies? What instructions do they receive to prepare them for unexpected situations (being snowed in or losing power during a thunderstorm, for example)?
- Are the caregivers insured and bonded?
- How is the program evaluated? Are family members contacted for their feedback? If so, review their comments!
Second, when interviewing an in-home respite care aide, you may want to ask these questions:
Where Can I Learn More About Respite Services?
The following organizations provide useful information to caregivers on a variety of topics including respite:
The Alzheimer’s Association provides education and support for people diagnosed with the condition, their families, and caregivers. To find a local chapter closest to you or to order a copy of the association’s respite care guide visit their website at http://www.alz.org or call 800-272-3900.
The Family Caregiver Alliance runs a resource center and publishes fact sheets and a newsletter with tips for family caregivers. The organization can be reached by calling 1-415-434-3388 or visiting its website at:
The National Alliance for Caregiving is a joint venture of several private and governmental agencies. The alliance web site provides useful information and links for caregivers. You can contact this resource by visiting its website at:
Information concerning adult day services can be obtained from the National Adult Day Services Association at (703) 610-9005 or by visiting their website at:
To learn how Home Helpers can help you with your respite care needs, click HERE
Informal caregivers and family caregivers are unpaid individuals
such as family members, friends and neighbors who provide care to a person in need of help: a husband who has suffered a stroke; a wife with ALS; a mother-in-law with cancer; a grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease.. These individuals can be primary or secondary caregivers, full time or part time, and can live with the person being cared for or live separately. Formal caregivers are volunteers or paid caregivers who are trained and associated with a service system or company such as Home Helpers. The statistics discussed focus on Informal Caregivers.
The Impact on a Caregiver’s Physical Health:
While researchers have long known that caregiving can have harmful mental health effects for caregivers, research shows that caregiving can have serious physical health consequences as well.
Studies have found that caregivers may have increased blood pressure and insulin levels, may have impaired immune systems and may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease among other adverse health outcomes.
A study of elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) found that caregivers who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.
Many caregivers are themselves in poor health; studies show that approximately one-third of caregivers provide intensive care although they are themselves in “fair to poor” physical health.
The Impact on a Caregiver’s Economic Health:
What is the estimated economic value of informal caregiving? If the services provided by informal caregivers (family, friends, neighbors) had to be replaced with paid services, it would cost an estimated $257 billion (in 2000 dollars).
Studies suggest that the cost of informal caregiving in terms of lost productivity to U.S. businesses is $11 to $29 billion annually.
As a result of their caregiving, informal caregivers are estimated to each lose an average of $25,494 in Social Security benefits, an average of $67,202 in pension benefits and an average of $566,433 in wage wealth. Combined, the result is a loss of $659,139 over a lifetime.
Long-distance caregivers spend an average of $392/month on travel and out-of-pocket expenses as part of their caregiving duties.
The Mental and Emotional Impact:
The less income a caregiver has, the more stress he or she is likely to experience.
Particularly stressful caregiving situations may put caregivers at risk of engaging in harmful behaviors towards care recipients. One study has shown that spousal caregivers who are at risk of clinical depression and are caring for a spouse with significant cognitive impairment and/or physical care needs are more likely to engage in harmful behavior towards their loved one.
While caregiving can be a very stressful situation for many caregivers, studies also show that there are beneficial effects, including feeling positive about being able to help a disabled spouse, feeling appreciated by the care recipient, and feeling that their relationship with the care recipient had improved.
If you or someone you know needs respite from caregiving, click HERE to learn how we can help!
For more statistics, click here: http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=439
Caring for yourself while caring for others is an important — and often neglected task. So this Valentine’s Day, save a little love for yourself by following these crucial steps to heart health
The American Heart Association tells us that heart disease is the number one killer of women – twice as many women die from stroke or cardiovascular disease than all cancers combined, including breast cancer. To raise awareness, the AHA promotes its “Go Red for Women” campaign, launching this month.
And, while all women must pay attention to maintaining their heart health, studies show that caregivers have twice the risk of developing a chronic illness such as heart disease, based in part on the prolonged stress they encounter during their caregiving journey.
Unfortunately, the challenges that caregivers face when they take on the role of caring for a loved one can prohibit or prevent them from finding the time to care for themselves. This is the big red flag we have to wave this month to help caregivers find the time to avoid the minefields that blow up their own self-care plan.
For instance, a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving on caregivers whose health has declined since they started caring for a loved one shows:
- Stress is a caregiver’s #1 issue and 91 percent report also suffering from depression
- 72 percent of these caregivers neglect their own doctor and dental appointments
- 10 percent adopt or resume bad behaviors such as smoking and they misuse alcohol or prescription drugs to cope
- 87 percent report getting less than eight hours of sleep a night and have less energy
- Almost four out of 10 said they have had weight loss or gain
Here are the five AHA tips for women aged 50 and over to review when it comes to keeping your heart healthy:
- Know your family history. You have a greater risk if a parent or grandparent had heart disease. In fact, a new study released this month shows that a mother’s stroke history can help predict her daughter’s risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
- Drink in moderation. While alcohol adds calories to your diet that can cause weight gain and your blood pressure can increase if you drink too much, four-fluid ounces of red wine a day can be all right according to some physicians.
- Eat a heart healthy diet – lots of fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or trout and fiber-rich whole grains. Also, stick to less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Know your numbers. Do you know what your good and bad cholesterol numbers are and what they should be? How about your Body Mass Index (BMI)? Are you getting at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day? Do you have a waist measurement of 35 inches or less? If you do not know your numbers, find out today and then check the Weight Control Information Network, maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, to find out what these numbers mean and how to maintain healthy scores.
Doing all the right things is hard enough for the average woman, but when you are caring for a loved one, it becomes an even more daunting task. When I have spoken to caregivers, they say to me, “Give me a break – literally! How can I find time to exercise or get more sleep? I don’t even have time to take a shower and I eat standing up in the kitchen because I have no time.”
Yes, it is hard. This is where the love comes in. Caregivers are giving love to their loved one, leaving precious little time to love themselves. So, if you have a mother, spouse, sister, friend, neighbor or co-worker who is a caregiver – what kind of Valentine’s wish can you send their way this year? Three ideas:
- Give respite: Give the caregiver you know a break so they can take a walk, get to a yoga class, take a nap, etc. Healthy heart help: Bring the caregiver in your life some heart healthy groceries – all cut up or in ready-to-eat freezer bags or snack bags. Make it easy for them to stay on track with good nutrition.
- Have a laugh: The power of humor is scientifically proven. Having a good laugh at least once a day releases endorphins that enhance mood and have even been show to boost immune systems. Call the caregiver you know and have a good chuckle.
Sometimes it’s hard to find that balance between self-care and caregiving. But, by taking care of your heart health, you will ensure you continue to be the heart of your family. And, as a friend to a caregiver, warm their heart this month with an act of kindness and support. It will do both your hearts some good.
To learn more about respite for caregivers, click HERE.