On Sunday, February 28th, our fearless leader Arthur Bretschneider was featured in a guest commentary piece by the Contra Costa Times. Read the full article below to learn how respite care can aid family caregivers in an extremely difficult role.
Chances are that you or someone you know is taking care of an aging parent or loved one right now. According to AARP, nearly 50 million adults in the U.S. have provided unpaid care over the past 12 months. That means that one in six Americans took on the role of a family caregiver during 2015. And on average, these unpaid caregivers (usually family members) spend over 24 hours a week providing care to their loved ones. That’s a lot of time taken out of your week, especially if you have a full time job, or are raising kids, or for a lot of family caregivers, both! Caregiving is one of the most stressful jobs a person can have, so it’s no wonder that so many caregivers become unhealthy themselves. Sometimes to the point where they have to be hospitalized.
A recent poll of 200 family caregivers found that 64% have been providing care for more than two years, and that 59% of those caregivers hadn’t taken a vacation or a meaningful break in over a year.
Enter respite care, something every family caregiver should know about but most probably have never of heard of. Simply put, respite care services provide family caregivers with a much needed breather by allowing their aging relative to continue to receive quality care in a safe and welcoming environment. Short-term stays in assisted living communities offer families the peace of mind they need to take a proper break. Forget all your preconceptions of nursing homes. The assisted living communities that offer short-term respite care are fun, welcoming and safe places. Almost like an “assisted living vacation.”
I’ve seen the benefits of respite care firsthand. As a third generation senior housing operator, I practically grew up in the communities that my father and grandfather built. When I started managing some of those properties on my own that offered respite care, I saw how helpful it was to both caregivers and those loved ones they were taking care of to take a break.
The research backs this up as well. Nearly half of those taking care of loved ones over 21 hours per week, say that respite services would be helpful. However, only 15 percent of family caregivers have used respite services for their loved ones. So why do more people not take advantage of respite care? The reason is accessibility. Many are either unaware of the option or how to navigate the system.
That’s why my company, Seniorly, along with helping families find permanent senior living options, also helps family caregivers easily and transparently connect with senior communities that offer respite care. We empower families by providing thorough reviews, the cost of the stay and a wealth of other information on each community, through one easy-to-navigate site.
Many senior communities offer respite stays ranging anywhere from a day or two, all the way up to several weeks. Not only does this give you a breather, but it also provides an opportunity for your parent or loved one to participate in any number of events and social activities that are going on at the community during their stay.
Obviously, affordability can be an issue for families, but family caregivers can apply for a grant through organizations like the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America as well as others.
Being a family caregiver can be an enriching and life changing experience, but having a support system is critical. You do not need to carry the weight of taking care of an elderly relative all on your own. And you should not wait until you are both physically and emotionally exhausted before asking for help. According to the National Respite Network, you should use respite services much earlier than you think you will need them. Respite is most helpful for caregivers before you become isolated and overwhelmed from taking care of loved ones.
There should be a be a national “The More You Know” PSA Respite style campaign to let our friends and loved ones know about the option. Until then, for more information on respite services in the East Bay visit the National Respite Network at: http://archrespite.org/