My grown aunt was the youngest of four children, and as parents age, their care often falls to the youngest child. So my aunt ended up being the one to look after my elderly grandmother when she could no longer do so herself. My aunt never procured respite care, and eventually found a professional home health aide to help with my grandmother. But before she did, it was clear that that the constant responsibilities of caring for another person were beginning to take their toll. Her once happy smile and laugh were muted, dark circles lurked under her eyes, and she was always exhausted.
My grandmother was affected as well. She felt badly for my aunt, and certainly didn’t want to be a burden to her. Many people feel guilty about spending time away from their senior loved ones – especially if those loved ones need day-to-day care. But there are many reasons why you deserve a break from daily caregiving tasks. And believe it or not, a respite stay can actually bring you closer together.
What is respite care?
Respite care isn’t complicated. It’s simply a pre-arranged period of time during which the caregiving responsibilities are shifted to professionals instead of family members. Respite care is commonly arranged for a week, but can be several weeks – or even several months!
When I worked at a nursing home, many visitors were unaware that our facility could be used for respite care as well as permanent residency. Respite care can also take place at an adult day care center (though not overnight), or simply consist of a home care professional coming to look after your senior.
Many people fear their senior will be bored or neglected during respite care, but nothing could be further from the truth. If the respite care takes place outside their homes, they are entitled to — and receive — all the same recreational benefits as the other seniors at the facility. If their particular condition prevents them from engaging in these activities, recreational therapists can provide one-on-one activities in their rooms (or homes) instead.
Why is respite care necessary?
Respite care isn’t just a “nice thing to have” — it’s essential to the overall well-being of both you and your senior. You don’t want to end up like my aunt, who was so consumed by caregiving that she neglected her own health. By making your own well-being a priority, you will extend your caretaking abilities far into the future, and be better at them once you’ve had a good rest.
Just as respite care helps your state of mind, it benefits your senior as well. For one thing, it gives the senior some much-needed socialization — especially if you are the only caregiver. Our nursing home often had seniors who regularly returned for respite care, and many of them said they looked forward to it like a vacation!
Paying for respite care
They length of a respite stay is determined by many things, but it would be naïve to say that finances were not one of them. Unfortunately, Medicare only pays for respite care if your senior is on hospice. At that point, care is available for up to five days at a time, covered at 95%. Likewise, Medicaid typically does not pay for adult day care centers, but will pay if the care is provided at a state-licensed facility which provides health care or an Alzheimer’s-friendly environment.
Other methods of payment include insurance, tax credits, veterans’ benefits, and private funds.
Respite care: more than a luxury
Many people consider respite care a luxury and something that would be lovely to indulge in, but isn’t crucial. However, this is simply not the case. Although arranging and paying for respite care can be challenging at times, it is an important aspect of health care planning for your senior. With a little time away under your belts, you and your loved one may return from a respite stay better than ever!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.