Two older adults enjoy their summer vacation as family caregivers using a respite care service.

Making Time for a Summer Vacation as a Family Caregiver

Bethesda Health | July 3, 2019

As the primary caregiver for a senior loved one, you “make time” for a lot of challenges and tasks. The needs include medications, doctor appointments, food preparation, helping mom or dad dress, grocery shopping, housekeeping—and the list goes on and on.

Question: When was the last time you made time for yourself? Oh, you have thought wistfully about it, and you have talked to your spouse and children about where you could vacation this summer. The problem is how can you leave your senior loved one? The solution? Respite care.

What is Respite Care?

Respite care is temporary substitute care to give caregivers a break, and time to do what they want or need to do. It can be provided at assisted living and skilled nursing communities, or in your own home. The break can be a few hours or a few weeks. It depends on how long you will be gone, the needs of your loved one, and how he or she may react to a temporary change.

Assisted living communities offer safe, comfortable, and professional care that can include assistance with daily activities like bathing, dressing, eating, medication management, and transportation to medical appointments, as well as activities for its residents.

Your loved one will stay in an apartment with trained staff available. Secure neighborhoods in assisted living communities can also provide an additional “safety net” for those seniors who may be in the early stages of dementia.

When planning your summer get-away, it is wise to visit some assisted living or skilled nursing communities to get a feel for the environment. Watch some activities and meet the staff that would be caring for your senior. And, if the senior is open to it, take them along so they will be more comfortable with the situation.

In-home care services can provide many of the same services as what is available through respite care at a senior living facility, and this enables your senior to remain in the familiar surroundings of their home. Services can also include some housekeeping, laundry help, grocery shopping, and other errands.

Professional respite care services, whether at an assisted living or skilled nursing community or in the home, can provide a customized care plan for your senior loved one. It’s not all up to you.

Preparing for Respite Care

Explain to your senior what respite care is and why you are going. Make it clear you are not tired of them, but just need some time to refresh yourself so that you will be energized upon your return.

Make sure the respite care program you select is licensed in your state. Obtain a list of all the services that will be provided, and note any special training the caregivers may have. Also, ask how far in advance you need to schedule the respite care stay.

Prepare a checklist for the respite care staff that includes a list of medications, medical conditions, allergies, and therapies needed, as well as contact information for yourself and your loved one’s physician. Also, inform staff of the senior’s preferences, likes and dislikes, and personal history. (Assisted living or skilled nursing communities and professional in-home services organizations should ask you for this information before care begins.)

A MuchNeeded Break or Vacation as a Family Caregiver

The benefits of reconnecting with your spouse, children and yourself on a relaxed and energizing vacation are vital to your physical and emotional health and will improve the care you can provide to your senior loved one when you return.

Below are some of the signs of “caregiver burnout.” Before you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to take a break:

Many family caregivers are in the “sandwich generation” — that group of middle-aged parents who feel the stress of raising their own children while caring for their parents at the same time. It takes its toll on you even though you might not be fully aware of it. Remember, your health affects the health of your senior loved one.

In addition, you may find your senior enjoyed a change of pace, place, and the new people they met while in respite care.

So don’t feel guilty about leaving a senior loved one for a summer vacation. It may be the best thing for everyone. Don’t obsess about what is happening back home while you are on the trip. Make sure you get away mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

Planning a vacation this summer? Contact Bethesda’s Care Management team online or by calling 314-800-1911 to learn more about our Respite Care service.

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