Full-time care giving, whether as a paid occupation or an unpaid vocation, is among the most stressful and demanding jobs on earth. But let’s never forget that there is one critical difference between the paid professional caregivers and the incredible people who are unpaid.
Full-time care-giving, whether as a paid occupation or an unpaid vocation, is among the most stressful and demanding jobs on earth. But let’s never forget that there is one critical difference between the paid professional caregivers and the incredible people who are unpaid. Paid caregivers get holidays and vacation, when they can recharge their batteries and not have to worry about the people normally in their charge.
Family caregivers often don’t have a schedule or a set number of hours. They are sometimes the sole person providing care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Imagine that reality. The closest situation most of us have experienced is welcoming home our first baby. All of a sudden, it dawns on us we are absolutely and solely responsible for a dependent infant. Like the family caregiver for an elder, we must make sure that meals are ready and sheets are clean. Our lives are turned upside down. Mother Nature helps new mothers with this process by flooding their bodies with chemicals to induce a strong bond with their child, almost blinding them to the monumental task at hand. So, in a perfect world, the caregiver of an adult and the caregiver of an infant have the same strong emotion of caring and love.
The care-giving experience is often strained when the person needing care is incontinent. Incontinence of bladder and/or bowels is one of the leading reasons that families give up and move their loved ones into a facility. Changing diapers is one of the most unpleasant tasks facing a new parent. While the infant’s need for a diaper is temporary, and disappears by about age 3, the same cannot be said in care giving. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel can be dim indeed.
The concept of self-care, or taking good care oneself so you are healthy in body, mind and spirit in order to be able to live fully and give of yourself to others, sounds like wishful thinking in many caregiver situations. But a tired and resentful caregiver can’t serve anyone well. Respite care, or temporary care while a caregiver takes a break or attends to other business, is important.
Here are some respite care ideas for anyone who is a caregiver or knows one:
· Most long-term care facilities, such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes, offer temporary respite care. The cost is normally privately paid and varies depending on the facility. Call and ask for the admissions director or executive director for information.
· Long-term care insurance usually contains a respite care benefit. This can usually be paid by the insurer even before the deductible is met. If you are caring for someone who has long-term care insurance, look into respite care for vacations or other breaks, and consider bringing in paid professional care for a couple of hours a day to allow you to go to the gym, visit with friends, run errands, or even meet with a therapist or other counselor.
· If you are the friend or relative of a caregiver, when you visit try to make the caregiver’s life a little easier. Bring a meal for everyone in the household; don’t allow the caregiver to cook. Better yet, schedule your visit to give the caregiver a well-deserved break.
It’s easy for caregivers to feel lonely and isolated, which can become overwhelming. What can we each do to give caregivers a vacation?
Plymouth, Mass., resident Marilee Kern Driscoll is a professional speaker and the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Long-term Care Planning.” She has been quoted in hundreds of newspapers and magazines, including “The Wall Street Journal” and “Kiplinger’s Personal Finance,” and has been interviewed on the CBS Early Show. She encourages you to ask your questions, subscribe to her free newsletter, and find local help with long-term care anywhere in the U.S. at www.LTC123.com.