Respite care worker helps elderly woman use a tablet.

A Holiday Helping Hand: Why Family Caregivers Choose Respite Care

Bethesda Health | November 7, 2019

The holidays are a special time, accompanied by high expectations for sharing wonderful moments with family and friends.

These expectations can range from exciting to unreasonable. The holidays may bring us joy or drive us to distraction as we try to juggle preparations, logistics, the personal preferences of family members, topics of discussion to avoid, gifts to buy, and decorations to put up.

And perfectionists—those ultra-responsible people who put it all on their shoulders—want everything to go just as planned, and could be vulnerable to a holiday disappointment.

Family caregivers tend to lean toward perfectionism, as they are deeply committed to their senior loved one. They try to plan every detail, meet all the needs, and feel badly if they make a mistake or neglect a task they thought they should have completed sooner.

Family caregivers also tend to be the people most heavily involved in holiday preparations, and correspondingly put pressure on themselves to make everything perfect and everyone happy. They are usually members of the “sandwich generation” — middle-aged parents who are raising their own children while caring for a parent or parents at the same time.

Kristen Daniels, Director of Bethesda Senior Support Solutions, notes the primary trait she sees that makes the holidays even more stressful for family caregivers: “It is hard for them to delegate tasks to others.”

Because of these traits and the stress of the holidays, family caregivers often choose respite care during the holiday season.

Here Come the Holidays

So the holiday season roars in, and it becomes practically impossible to take care of Mom, plan and prepare for the holidays, and not succumb to the stress of trying to do the impossible. According to Daniels, some primary caregivers live a substantial distance from their parents, and maintaining long-distance care for them while meeting the holiday expectations of the caregiver’s children and spouse is especially difficult.

Respite Care

Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for a few hours, several days, or weeks. Respite caregivers can be found through private duty agencies (like Bethesda Senior Support Solutions) or home health care services so the senior can remain in his or her home, or by placing them temporarily in senior living communities where they will receive their meals, share in activities with other seniors, and receive the care they need.

Unfortunately, despite its benefits, most people are unaware that respite care exists. “I advise adult children to start learning about it at their local senior living communities before they need it,” Daniels says.

Of course, you should include your seniors in as much of the holiday observances and family time as possible, depending upon their physical and cognitive abilities. Respite care gives you the opportunity and energy to focus on making the holidays special for them as well.

Respite care services charge by the hour or the number of days or weeks that services are provided. Please check with the respite care providers in advance of the dates and times that the care is required.

Why Do Family Caregivers Choose Respite Care?

Stress Relief

The added stress of the holidays can push caregivers to the breaking point. They may be hosting out-of-town family in their home, feeling the financial squeeze of the holidays, or dealing with strained family relations that pop up during the season. Respite care provides relief just when it is needed.

Holiday Get-Away Time

Perhaps you have loved ones in another community you want to visit, and Mom or Dad are not capable of traveling. Respite care gives you the option of being out town and catching up with friends and relatives without worry. Your senior loved ones are receiving all the services and companionship they need in your absence.

Senior Socialization Benefits

If your senior loved one is receiving respite care in a senior living community, they may enjoy meeting other people and participating in games and other activities offered at the community.

Also, some respite care services send an aide to the senior’s home to provide companionship as well as non-medical care.

Respite Care Will Make You a Better Caregiver

The symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

“Many times, primary caregivers don’t realize they are in burnout mode,” Daniels says. “So when our staff meets with them, they are not always willing to accept our consult, because they still believe they can continue to do everything.”

Daniels says the Bethesda staff supplies tools and strategies to the caregivers to help them recognize the strain they have been under— and some of them are very basic. “We find that when the caregiver accepts respite care services, they sleep well and relax knowing that their senior loved one is being cared for. Then they understand they needed respite care for themselves, so that they could revive and heal.”

If you are suffering these symptoms, the care you are providing for your senior adult is probably suffering as well. When family caregivers choose respite care, the improvement in their mind and body will translate into increased energy and a positive outlook that will benefit everyone.

Happy holidays!

Respite Care services are available in your home, your loved ones home or in Bethesda communities throughout the St. Louis area. Contact us today to schedule respite care for your senior loved one during this busy holiday season.

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